Golden state of blight: On VCU homecoming’s Empire theme

Morgan White
Opinion Editor

It seems ridiculous that it’s even necessary to say, “Maybe that’s a bad idea.” But here we are: A portion of the student body saw nothing wrong with using “Empire” as the theme for this year’s homecoming.

There will be one event daily this week, including Chance the Rapper concert, a homecoming court pageant parade, a pep rally and a talent show, and ending with the homecoming game where the VCU Rams will play Dayton at Siegel Center. Perhaps the only event out of these that will do any real good is an event on Thursday around the same time the concert is, a way to donate canned goods to the Hospitality House by bringing them and building an “empire.” Chances are the majority of people will only go to the concert.

If the homecoming committee hopes to build an empire, they have to start by considering Richmond’s less privileged residents. According to a Jan. 2014 Washington Post article, 26 percent of Richmond’s population is considered low-­income. The article said that people within a few minutes’ drive to the Capitol are at the worst, stating that between 67.2 percent and 50.7 percent of people living in that area are poor. Out of 49 Richmond Public Schools, 37 receive Title I funding, Title I being the program that aims to close the gap between students who come from low­-income families and students who don’t.

The theme “Empire” was a terrible idea; it reinforces the mindset that VCU built the city of Richmond. While the things VCU has done to revitalize the area may have cut down on crime and poverty in certain parts of the city, VCU isn’t an empire, it’s an educational institution and it should be thought of as such. In terms of being an empire, it has exclusively worked to push the poor out and bring the rich in.

If you have ever been to Southside you would realize that areas not inhabited by VCU are mostly poor and black. In Richmond, the few rich and triumphant on the top rule and all the steps below are stepped on and abused for those who are higher up­­specifically those affiliated with VCU. Like a professor of mine said the other day, a murder in Southside Richmond would be far less newsworthy than a murder on the West End.

The same thing could be said about a murder in VCU territory.Even fresh food is harder to come by outside of Ram country, given that the closest thing the residents of those areas have to a grocery store is usually a gas station or a corner store. Economically it’s unfortunately smarter for companies to open up their grocery stores where the university lies.

When you live in the former capital of the Confederacy, “empire” is nowhere near close to being a good mindset to have. The head of that burgeoning empire was burned here on April 3, 1865 when it was seized by the Union Army. As an institution we should remember that. We should remember, and realize that after all of this time a large racial and class divide still exists. We can’t allow black and gold to be the colors of arrogance.

If we’re building an empire, homecoming should be used as a chance to help Richmond’s underprivileged residents, especially public school students who may one day come to VCU. Stabilizing VCU’s foundation should be the name of the game, volunteering, donating and fundraising the primary activities. Instead, an exorbitant amount of money is being spent on bouncy houses, and only the barest minimum of community outreach is involved.

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