As the people of this nation continue to grapple with living in a diverse society that has historically discriminated against racial and ethnic minorities, women, and LGBTQ+ people, the University of Richmond campus reflects this national climate. In this five-part series, The Collegian seeks to tell a few of the stories of non-majority students. These stories are by no means the only ones that need to be told, nor do they represent the experiences of all historically marginalized groups on campus.
“We can say that we’re diverse, but are we really inclusive?” Jaide Hinds-Clarke asked. “When we talk about diversity, you got to think about all the different things that go into it.”
Hinds-Clarke is a sophomore originally from Westwood, New Jersey. She's a part of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, plays on the women’s basketball team, works in Common Ground, volunteers at Overby-Sheppard Elementary School, and is involved in WILL* and the Black Student Alliance.
As a woman of color, she said she also faces the struggle of being a minority student on campus.
“You can feel alone in a bunch of different places on campus,” Hinds-Clarke said. “You don’t see people who are like you in these spaces and it makes you go, 'I don’t really know if I’m welcome in that space.'”
Hinds-Clarke has actively worked to build a more inclusive community at UR, she said. As the LGBTQ programs coordinator, she assists in creating much of the student programming. Lee Dyer, her boss and the associate director of LGBTQ campus life, attested to the importance of her position.
"Jaide has a very huge role at the university," Dyer said. "She has to juggle a whole lot. A place schedule, a community activist schedule, but Jaide has great dedication."
For Hinds-Clarke, her work to build a more inclusive community extends outside of this role, everywhere from class to the athletic field, from bathrooms to restaurants.
But, she said it can be difficult to be the only black student in her classes.
Last semester, during an interest meeting for Jepson, she noticed that there had been only four or five black students there.
“Are all four of us going to get in because we need to fit some sort of demographic?" She said she wondered to herself. "When do I know when my credentials actually mean something?”
Hinds-Clarke said that although being black sometimes affected her academic experience, being a woman affected her athletic career. As a female athlete, she is often frustrated with the minimal turnout for women’s basketball games when the men’s games not only get more fans, but are also advertised more by UR, she said.
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“I know there are women on this campus who are all about, you know, women’s empowerment and stuff like that, so you’d expect more people to show up to these events that are women kicking ass on the athletics field,” Hinds-Clarke said.
Hinds-Clarke feels that this lack of support comes from how different groups on campus rarely co-mingle, she said. She acknowledged the importance of finding people to feel comfortable with socially, but said she believes it is just as important to open a dialogue with different people.
“We’re probably a lot more similar than we think we are," Hinds-Clarke said. "And if that’s the case, we should have no problem coming together and doing things together."
Hinds-Clarke said she often deals with microaggressions, which are subtle or unintentional discriminatory acts against members of a marginalized group, because she does not express herself in a traditionally feminine way.
A friend and coworker of Hinds-Clarke, Ayele d'Almeida described how frustrating it can be when people falsely assume Hinds-Clarke’s gender to be male.
“Jaide is very masculine presenting,” d'Almeida said, adding that sometimes when they are out in public, people often address Hinds-Clarke as “sir.”
D'Almeida works as the ally-training coordinator under Dyer and is also a Jepson student.
“She won’t confront people about her gender or her pronouns," d'Almeida said. "I get really upset because obviously I don’t want to make a scene in a public area, but sometimes I want to shout ‘she!'”
Hinds-Clarke encounters such misconceptions everywhere she goes, and it can create anxiety over even something as simple as using the women's restroom, she said.
“Someone else comes in, sees me, and goes back out, checks the sign — just because the way I present myself doesn’t fit what they think fits in this bathroom,” she said.
In spite of this, Hinds-Clarke has loved her time at UR and is optimistic about its future, as she continues her work to inspire change, she said.
“I’ve only been here two years, but I feel like from freshman year I’m already seeing some sort of change,” Hinds-Clarke said. “I know they said last year was our most diverse class, being a black student on campus, I feel like I see more black faces on campus now.”
But, Hinds-Clarke notes that with this sense of optimism comes responsibility, she said.
“There’s a difference when people say this space is for all people and then actually making it for all people,” she said.
Although it may not be difficult for students of color to find groups on campus, it was more necessary to feel comfortable and included in the broader campus culture, she said.
“Black Student Alliance exists because the black students on campus know that we need a space," Hinds-Clarke said. "I feel like, in a way, students of color, international students, anybody has to put on a façade almost. If I didn’t feel like I needed BSA, I wouldn’t go. I think it’s a matter of understanding your situation.”
Ultimately, Hinds-Clarke said it was up to the students and the administration alike to make the transition from diverse to inclusive.
“There’s things as a small liberal-arts institution that we can do,” she said. But, she said she believes it must be an effort put forth from all students to not just build spaces where inclusivity thrives, but to actively want and use them as well.
Contact news writer Logan Etheredge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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