I am a student, friend, daughter, member of the Ship community, Black woman, Political Science major and someone who cares about this campus. When I came to Ship, like many students, I knew some parts about myself but was ready to learn and identify new parts of me that one can discover in college. For example, I thought I was a shy person, but my experience here taught me otherwise.
As a Black person coming to Ship, I knew that it wasn’t going to be as diverse as an Historically Black College or University (HBCU), but I also thought that the campus would be accepting. I was wrong.
PWI’s are Predominately White Institutions. To some students this is just another acronym, but to others this three letter acronym is impossibly impactful. Many Black students who attend Ship are fighting battles while trying to get an education that are unseen by those who do not share our experience. These battles can consist of many things: Trying to navigate a new and previously inexperienced proximity to whiteness, which is the race that dominates our school, the new feelings of comparison that accompany this new perspective, imposter syndrome, the internalized racism of the Ship culture and racism that is both blatant and expressed through microaggressions.
I personally have fought these battles with roommates, classmates and staff members, many of whom may not even know they were engaged in conflict with me. Such is the life of being Black in the classroom. Frequently we are silent in our pain because the perpetrator of our anguish may not have intended harm, or maybe we are uncomfortable speaking up, or perhaps because it is simply exhausting trying to speak up constantly.
I know that I am not the only one. Ship’s campus tends to avoid conversations about race, and when these conversations happen they are only targeted towards black students, or Black students are the only ones who seem to care enough about it to show up. This heightens our feelings of isolation, regret and anger- the feelings we did not want to feel when we applied to Ship.
I do not want our campus to avoid what Black students are experiencing on campus. I want more than a designated space, meeting times and a handful of events to highlight campus diversity. I want Black students to feel like we are supported and to be around people who understand us not just within our community but people we coexist with. This might not fix the racial issues we experience, but it will give us an outlet to lessen the feelings of isolation.
I want to raise a question: When events that Multicultural Student Affairs hosts are open to the general population at Ship, who attends these events? For example, the “Abolish the N Word” event held last semester was opened to the whole campus, and everyone was informed of it. Only 75 people, mostly Black and a handful of white students, showed up. Who does it help when just black students and a sprinkle of white students show up to an event that would have educated so many about the impact of the N word when used in any kind of way? That is a part of the issue.
We wash ourselves of the burden of what Black students are experiencing right here on this campus. And when that happens, much the responsibility falls on Black students to educate those around us. When we are faced with microaggressions, it becomes our job to educate our aggressor, even though there is a possibility that they may feel no remorse for what they said. If we are in class setting talking about an event that was heavily centered around Black people, we are often being asked to speak for an entire race of people. When we are stereotyped for something that we can’t change, it is we who must work hard to fight against the stereotype to fit into white spaces.
I am mad, I am tired and I am disappointed. Does Shippensburg University know what it means to be Black in the classroom? Do white students know what it’s like to be Black in the classroom? Does faculty know what’s it’s like to be Black in the classroom? Do you know what it’s like to be Black in the classroom? I want us to talk more, listen harder and see that our fellow Shipmates are suffering. This column can be the start of a conversation that should extend beyond the pages of our newspaper to every corner of our campus to heal and provide support for those of us who are Black in the classroom.