Being a minority anywhere is full of challenges, I’m sure everyone can agree on that fact. However, often overlooked is the experience of being a minority in a higher education setting.
For starters, most people have seen far too many movies depicting the heroic white teacher that enters into an inner-city classroom and introduces the children to music/dance/art/after-school activities/safe places/poetry/creativity/reading inciting improved academic performance ultimately allowing some of the top students to get into a prestigious university. While these are touching stories and I certainly don’t mean to diminish any positive work that these educators have done, it can create the illusion that once these children get into a university, they’ve made it – all of their problems are solved.
Especially an establishment like the University of Michigan – with a reputation of being fairly Liberal, valuing diversity, and operating as a highly prestigious but public institution – one would expect that the student body would be fairly cohesive, aware, and accepting. I can tell you as a former student at the University, that this isn’t the case. I can tell you, that luckily, the U of M does vehemently support initiatives to increase awareness and understanding – especially in departments like American Culture, which was one of my majors and gave me invaluable cultural capital. But not everyone at the University can take key courses like Amcult 399 – Race, Racism, and Ethnicity (now called Race In America). While there is a Race and Ethnicity requirement for Literature, Science, and the Arts students, those in other schools such as Engineering or Business are not subject to this rule. Additionally, classes such as Anthropology count as Race and Ethnicity credits which lends little to no insight on current racial problems.
Students took to Twitter using the hashtag #BBUM, standing for Being Black at University of Michigan, to give some examples of what it’s like. Some are positive, some are negative, most are pretty eye opening. It’s the little things that make ones race a constant topic.
Indeed, it’s hard to believe that at places full of educated young adults ignorance is just as rampant. While students may be more conscious of being blatantly racist, their actions, oversights, assumptions, and entitlement can create a difficult environment where a minority student is constantly reminded that they are Black/Latino/Asian/different, even if it’s a statement wrapped in acceptance.
None of these statements are meant to be “racist” but they are a common occurrence and a reassurance of “otherness.” Most people wouldn’t care what ethnicity a white person was, and they certainly wouldn’t assume that they are adopted.
But the #BBUM post that really sums it up:
and yay for this guy!
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