Growth isn’t universal: Racism still exists at NMU

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Kelsii Kyto

A few months ago while walking back from my vehicle in the night, a car filled with white students drove past and shouted the n-word at me as I was attempting to cross the street. After that moment, I had a realization.

Actually, it was more of a reminder.

As 1 of roughly 156 African Americans here at Northern (since the 10th day student profile from 2017), I pride myself in being a diverse member of campus and bringing a new perspective to my university.

However, it’s come to my attention that many students do not come to appreciate my and others’ diversity. These students are a problem.

Just because hate crimes are illegal, slavery was abolished and there are equal opportunity laws in place does not mean that America is free of all prejudice.

Racism, despite what many believe, is still alive and well from big cities like New York to small towns like Marquette. It even exists at NMU, a place that has an emphasis on inclusion and is deemed safe and secure for all students.

It’s time for our campus to acknowledge and attempt to combat not only blatant racism, but also institutional racism: discrimination that has become normalized and embedded in a society or organization (for example, the profiling of minority races at the airport or when getting pulled over).

Racism is not a mythical creature but rather a lively beast. Students of all forms of diversity should be able to walk around NMU’s campus without being worried about being harassed or feeling unwelcome. After all, that is what NMU claims to strive for.

Everyone could use more education on racism and its history. There is always more to learn, and racial illiteracy stems from the false sense that racism is dead because black people are no longer in shackles.
Many schools also have difficulty teaching about slavery and racism because it’s “awkward” or “uncomfortable.”

We shouldn’t be one of those institutions. It’s time to talk about racism.
“Saying that the deadliest conflict in American history was fought over an effort to keep people enslaved conflicts with students’ sense of the grandness of America, the grandness of American history and, therefore, the grandness of themselves as Americans,” said Ibram X. Kendi, a professor of history at American University, according to NPR.

This comment made by Kendi brought me straight back to eighth grade history class.

My teacher forced our class to pick cotton, not realizing the racist undertones that activity carried. This was apparently to praise the technological advances of the cotton gin.

Teaching a large group of students that it’s permissible to turn something with such racist and historical undertones into a fun class activity is one of the reasons that people think it’s acceptable to be racist and the reason that the history of slavery is trivialized.

The problem: no one in class said anything about the activity that day, not even me.

As these slights against African-Americans become cloudier and cloudier, the less blatant they become. We need to educate ourselves and speak out against the daily microaggressions presented on and off campus, which include brief insults, provocations and degrading comments toward marginalized groups.

I’ve been told multiple times that I’m the “whitest black person” they know, that I speak very clearly “for a black person,” or that I don’t portray the “angry black woman” as much as other black females they know. Black women getting angry is considered much more severe in comparison to white women getting angry.

According to the sources of these phrases, these things are good for me. They’re not. This is microaggression at it’s finest.

Comments like the ones above are not compliments; they are insults to my ethnicity.

If you see an act of racism yet are sitting still, or are complicit in these unintentional microaggressions, you are part of the problem. There is an issue with the satisfaction with our current social situations. As Malcolm X said, “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”

By speaking up for what is wrong, we can educate the ones who hurt our campus the most and embarrassingly portray us as uneducated in terms of diversity—students like the ones who yelled the n-word at me in the dead of night. It’s important that we don’t run from these issues, but we face them head on.

I am proud of my culture, my color, my character. I do apologize if I offend anyone with my self-admiration; but the men who called me that vile word so many nights ago only thickened my skin and made me feel joyous that I was born into my beautiful brown skin.

If the color of my body bothers your eyes, simply avert them and don’t worry; under my thick skin, I’m a human being just like the rest of you.