First and foremost, I want to establish that I am not a social commentator or journalist. Quite contrarily, I pursued a major that requires little to no writing. What you are reading is organic frustration and sentiment from an African-American male that has intensified within my three-year experience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
One of the misconceptions I carried onto UW transitioning from Los Angeles, California, was that a collective understanding and embracement of various identities would be exuded by the student population, regardless of the whiteness and privilege that constructed the campus. I was primed through the ‘pre-collegiate training’ of my scholarship program to readily combat insensitive rhetoric that would arise in racial dialogues with peers, and to be the catalyst that would enact metamorphic change within a 160-year-old establishment … because to be black is to enlighten. But never did the infeasibility of these tasks — correlated with the reality that we represent 949 of 43,000, or 2 per every 100 students — resonate until earlier this week.
This past weekend, a freshman student by the name of Synovia Knox, who attends UW through the Office of Multicultural Arts (OMAI) First Wave scholarship program, was targeted and assaulted in Sellery Residence Hall by an individual who I’ll leave unidentified (even though his identity has been exposed). The student, who was reportedly inebriated, took it upon himself to shove, slur, and spit in Knox’s face while expressing his discontent for students like Knox that “don’t deserve” to attend the university. Before learning the details of the incident, I assumed the perpetrator was white, but I was taken aback when discovering that he was Asian. You might assume this detail alleviated or, at least, limited the vexation I had towards the situation, but, ironically, it angered me so much that I have found myself at 3 a.m. in the morning typing this editorial. Never have I done this.
IT IS NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MARGINALIZED STUDENTS TO WITHSTAND, TOLERATE, AND EDUCATE. WE HAVE EARNED OUR PLACEMENT HERE AND, SIMPLY PUT, HAVE NO TIME FOR THAT DRAMA.
The pestering nuance of this incident is not resultant of the explicit and inexcusable racial belittling carried out by the student to me. As black students in a midwestern predominantly white institution (PWI), we’ve subconsciously and unabashedly combated and persisted in spite of these very situations. My bafflement stems from the persistence of the university to passively and pacifically allow experiences like this to amass for students of color. This is third event in the past two weeks with racial overtones that I have yet to see enforceable or even subtle repercussion adjustment in policy form handed down by Housing, the Dean of Students Office, or even Office for Equity and Diversity.
I typically avoid politics, especially those that linger on this campus, but students are tired and bothered with the baseless e-mail anecdotes, and that is a truth I refuse to keep silent on. We want tangible policy changes that will make students second guess asserting their privilege over under-represented students because they recognize the consequences far outweigh any of their narcissistic, bigoted inclinations.
It is not the responsibility of marginalized students to withstand, tolerate, and educate. We have earned our placement here and, simply put, have no time for that drama.