The recent racist attacks have left many students of color uncertain about their decision to attend the University of Richmond, including me. As I write this article, I still have not told my parents about the events on campus because I know that the moment I do, they will not be able to think about anything else.
I don’t want to tell them that I am worried, but I am. I am worried about my safety, along with the safety of other people of color. When events like these occur on a campus that is consistently deemed “safe” by tour guides, faculty members and administration, many people are shocked. However, we really should not be. Unfortunately, this is the reality of America.
Since the attacks have come to light, discussions about racism have been increasing on campus, which has been fantastic to watch and partake in. Although, it is unfortunate and infuriating that it has taken something of this magnitude occurring before these discussions could happen and gain the full attention of the community. The minority experience has been difficult since the first day of freshman year, but only now are white people truly listening to what we have to say.
As an Afro-Latina, I am well aware that these events are not isolated; they will happen again. I simply want to remind everyone that we need to continue these conversations -- not just for the next week or so, but indefinitely, so we can find tangible, long-term solutions. These conversations need to keep happening so that one day, maybe students of color can feel safe.
Of course, there are some people who will say that they are tired of these conversations, and we should just move on.
We cannot move on. Sadly, people of color can never move on from these acts of racism because they are part of our very existence. This is the type of discrimination we have faced every single day of our lives, but only now is it on full display. This is not something we as a campus necessarily want to talk about, and I understand that talking about racism can be uncomfortable.
But you know what else is uncomfortable? When people look at you in a judgmental way when you walk into an all-white classroom. When people make jokes that you’re an Oreo or a “halfie.” When people say you belong in Mexico.
Believe me, I understand discomfort.
Some may think that none of these examples are racist or that they're not that bad, but what needs to be realized is that partaking in these sorts of acts is “othering." By othering people, a person creates an impenetrable wall, one that prevents them from relating to a person of a different background. In some ways, yes, they may not relate to a person of a different culture, but if a barrier is immediately formed, they limit their ability to ever find out. Oftentimes, that “identity” for a minority in the person’s mind is based on a few select encounters, fabricated media stereotypes and presumptions from what little they know about that culture.
Maybe you do not other people or do not act on this othering, but some have and will continue to do so.
Therefore, no, we cannot move on from this, nor should we. As a campus, we need to remember these acts of racism. We need to continue to have discussions, continue to let people of color speak their minds and find solutions together. If we stay silent now, it will only allow the oppressors to think they have won.
My friends, they have not won. And they will not win so long as we continue to voice our opinions and garner strength from one another. As we continue with these discussions, may we remember that we are all diverse in our own way, and that it is time to show how powerful differences can be when they work together.
Contact lifestyle editor Sydney Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.