The Great White Northern Lie

To begin, I would like to say that I stand in solidarity with my fellow black students and other students of color at universities nationwide. Recent developments at the University of Missouri and Yale University have further provoked my deepest feelings of empathy in particular. I hope that those courageous students are being supported by their communities and loved ones. For those of you (read: white people) confused as to why this is suddenly a big deal for everyone, I challenge you to ask that one black friend you made in your “Race and Diversity” class about how they really feel about your campus climate.

There is a terrible myth that has been spoon-fed to young people all over the Northeast. When we talk about “Race in America”, it is presented as undeniable fact that real racism only happens in the Southern portions of this country.

We are told to be happy that we are no longer barred from shopping at certain establishments, no matter the countless times that I have watched a store employee follow my mother around a department store in the middle of Delaware.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a world that does not conspire to send my spirit through a shredder to be reconstituted into an off-white recyclable. To have the luxury of only thinking about race when it is brought to my attention, that is a hefty privilege indeed. I carry the weight of regular challenges to my intellectual prowess, cognitive maturity, and emotional wholeness every day. This burden has become an unwelcome resident of my psyche; no more wanted than the habitual near second-degree burn that some of my peers get whenever they dare to stand in the sun for more than a few minutes in July.

We are told that things have gotten better because we are able to purchase a home in a certain neighborhood, no matter that I had to play high school soccer with boys that went out of their way to dream up variations of the word nigger.

Contemplate an educational experience where I do not walk into a classroom wondering if my professor will say something the next time that one white dude makes an off-topic and abrasive comment about “the blacks” that is both morally bankrupt and factually untrue.

Imagine a learning environment where I do not get asked by a girl who moves some odd locks of sad bleach ravaged corn-hued something-or-other behind her ear if I find it “hard to wash my hair since it you know is like that”.

Consider a university living experience where I do not flinch every time I hear nigger spill from the lips of a drunk white girl who is hanging off the arm of a man who will probably take her home to do things that she did not and cannot consent to.

We are told to look on the bright side because we are now able to attend certain institutions of higher education, no matter that the amount of times someone has subtly implied that I am so lucky to be here because of the color of my skin.

It isn’t real racism if there is a black or brown body in that seat next to you in your morning lecture that you barely attend. It isn’t real racism if that class is taught by a professor with “the dumbest sounding accent that you have ever heard”. It certainly isn’t real racism since you mention that one sorority with that one black girl in it, though for some reason you are having trouble remembering her name.

Do I have to be beaten outside of the Tech Center? Should I be lynched in a quiet room in the library? Or would it be enough if I were to be dragged down Liacouras Walk? I suppose that it is probably comforting to imagine that if you do not see a black body being maimed, then it means that you are finally doing it right and those people are just complaining about nothing. You are leaps and bounds ahead of those other white people a few hundred miles below.