The racism plaguing Mizzou seems very far away, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s in the South. Those things just happen there, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Quiet as it is kept, you have first-year Black students being disregarded right now in their classes and organizations, as well as other social circles on campus.
I want to take you back for a moment to Fall 2013. It seems so long ago, but it still is very fresh in my mind. I remember writing a Daily opinion piece about being a Black Detroiter in Ann Arbor, before Michigan in Color was started. It was a great release for me as a senior. I was tired of allowing other people define what it meant to be a Detroiter on this campus. The support people showed was awesome, but one commenter still shines through. He said something along the lines of me being a “Black malcontent-turned-dung beetle” and that I probably did not have the grades to get into Michigan without Bridge. I have a few things to say about that: 1. Do better in your insults. 2. I did not do Bridge, but who cares if I did Bridge? I’m here. 3. I actually had a 3.7, a 27 on my ACT and was in the top 10 percent of my graduating class. Many other Black students on this campus have been questioned like I have been in their experiences.
This week marks the two-year anniversary of #BBUM, which came about a month and a half after I wrote my original viewpoint. Some of you may remember that “World Star Ratchet Hip Hop” party that almost happened that really ignited Black students on campus. #BBUM was the way we made our voices heard. The Black Student Union here put pressure on the administration to deal with our experience. A New York Times article about diversity shortcomings didn’t look too good for our institution’s image. I firmly believe that without that pressure, all of these diversity initiatives would not even exist. There may have been the usual, ho-hum diversity rhetoric, but nothing as comprehensive as what we seem to have now.
I have been at the University since 2010, which is seemingly a lifetime in terms of college cycles. Seeing the new strategic plan around diversity that has spurred gives me some hope, I guess, but we must sustain this momentum. If not, this campus is going to become even more isolating for Black and brown students, and it seems, in some ways, it is already at that point. I have heard of current first-year Black students being refused entry to predominantly white fraternity parties for no good reason as white students are let in before them. I have heard of a Black woman reading about Mizzou on the bus and being told not to do that here because “we’re sharpening our knives.” Really? Let’s not remove ourselves from this Mizzou situation.
It can happen here. It does happen here.
Dan Green is a master’s student in the School of Social Work
Michigan in Color is an inclusive space by and for students of color at the University of Michigan. To contribute your voice or find out more about MiC, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.