Hello! The angry black woman is back and in action. Did you miss me?
Here is an update since my last post. I have decided to make this a series because several things make me angry as a black woman, and rightfully so. This is a series based on facts and experience. So, let us dive in.
This past weekend I presented at The National Communications Association’s annual conference. I was the only undergraduate student on my panel and it was an amazing experience. Anytime your academic work is acknowledged, as a black woman, it is a great experience. So, you may be wondering… why are you angry? The answer is: The conference itself did not make me angry, the topic did. The topic was minority students’ experiences at predominantly white institutions. Before I begin, I want to note that I am glad that I did the research and it was very insightful. However, the truths that I uncovered made me angry because of how minority students are often treated in predominantly white institutions (PWI’s).
The First Truth: Many institutions were created “to educate the offspring of colonizers. The colonial university acted as a preserver of social inequality by only serving White “elite’ males.”
his foundation of white supremacy is one that has yet to crumble. JMU’s white supremacist foundation can be seen through many aspects of the university. It can be seen in the university’s namesake – James Madison. James Madison is a well-known white elite male who profited from slave labor. Think about it. Today, JMU is still trying to use their black students to make a profit. Instead of acknowledging the minority students at the university, the university uses its minority students to promote a false sense of diversity so they can profit off of it. This can be seen through the diverse advertising that JMU spends its money on. The false advertisement is then used to trick prospective students into thinking the campus is more diverse than it really is and essentially, gets the school more money by receiving more undergraduate students. White supremacy may seem like something of the past, but now you know it is not.
The second truth: Many minority students face microaggressions when attending a PWI.
What are microaggressions? Microaggressions are, a subtle “but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other nondominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.”More specifically, minorities are more likely to encounter racial microaggressions “from faculty, staff, and peers, many of whom possess little personal experience interfacing with the Black community and whose knowledge of Black culture may be limited to negative stereotypes in the media.”
The important thing to note here is how microaggressions form from prejudice. Prejudice is often formed due to the lack of interface with minority communities and negative stereotypes in the media. White people often fail to take the time to get to know people of color. Do white people work with people of color? Yes. Do they do activities with people of color? Yes. Do they try to get to know people of color on a deeper level? No. Mind you, this does not apply to ALL white people, but it does apply to many. White people are very comfortable only having relationships with people that look like them. As a result, they believe the stereotypes they are shown through the television screen. They believe that Black men are dangerous, they believe Black people are dumb, and they believe that Black women are angry. They believe this because it is what they are shown on the majority of the time they interface with black people through the tv. So why am I angry? I am angry because these negative stereotypes are not reinforced through many Black people. However, Black people still receive the repercussions (microaggressions) of these negative images no matter how much they negate them. Think about it.
The third truth: There is labor placed on minority students that fail to exist for White students.
Often, minority students are forced to labor to find a sense of belongingness at their predominately white institutions. For example, this labor can be seen when minority students have to initiate the conversation with their white peers.
This is a true statement. Many times, minority students have to initiate conversations with their peers to be acknowledged. This labor is placed on these students because of white supremacy and microaggressions. All of it is intertwined. The structure of white supremacy on our campus fosters an environment where white students have an upper hand. They never have to walk into a classroom and wonder if they will be the only white person. They never have to wonder if someone will yell derogatory terms, about their skin, when they go out. They never have to wonder if they are not getting an opportunity because of their skin color. Minority students, do not have this same luxury. When it comes to initiating conversations with minorities, white students often don’t because they have the upper hand. As a result, minority students are forced to labor to break through the structures of white supremacy.
Microaggressions foster labor as well. Like Griffith said above, minority students often face microaggressions due to prejudice that is often developed through stereotypes on tv and lack of interface with minorities. Often people believe these stereotypes and it hinders them from speaking to minorities. The stereotypes often portray negative and dangerous images that are then placed on the entire race. As a result, white students don’t initiate conversations with minority students because they believe these stereotypes. So, minority students are then forced to put in the work to negate those stereotypes to find a sense of belonging.
So why am I angry? I am angry because minority students, at PWI’s, constantly have to maneuver around structures of white supremacy, face microaggressions, and labor just to survive. We are forced to put in so much work and often get little in return. JMU, as a PWI, has done nothing to increase its diversity yet still use minority students for their benefit. We are not marketing tools. We are people. We are people tired of trying to maneuver through a white man’s reign. Get it together!