Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor
Minority students attending predominantly white universities and institutions have constantly found themselves feeling othered and left out of the norm. Even at VCU, I am sometimes hyper-aware of my blackness or my religious background.
According to university data, the school’s student population is made up of nearly 30% underrepresented minorities such as American Indian or Alaska Native, black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or two or more races. At a university that’s far more diverse than most, the feeling of otherness still exists.
Now, imagine how minority students feel at institutions such as Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. A video that highlighted the frustrations and dejection of minority students taken at UVa’s recently opened Multicultural Student Center went viral just a few days ago. The center was meant to be inclusive to all students but particularly to serve as a safe haven for minority students.
In the video, which as of Tuesday has 5.4 million views, an unnamed black female student calls for the attention of all students in the room for a “public service announcement.”
She says: “Frankly, there’s just too many white people in here, and this is a space for people of color, so, just be really cognizant of the space that you’re taking up.” It’s clear that the student has been frustrated with the situation for quite a while, as have others; many were clapping and cheering at the end of the video.
The video was posted on Twitter by an organization known as Young America’s Foundation, which said the student was being racist and intolerant.
While I may not agree with how the student went about speaking her mind, I wholeheartedly respect and understand what she’s saying. Students of color have to deal with the reality of being one of few in a room of many.
People are looking at the wrong portion of what she was saying. Perhaps she shouldn’t have said there were too many white people in the center but she had a more important point: White folks should be more mindful of the space they’re taking up. As she said, there aren’t many spaces for students of color, and sometimes we enjoy congregating with those who deal with the same struggles and realities.
I’m not saying white folks cannot be in the multicultural center, and neither is she. This is a matter of being sympathetic to something some of you cannot comprehend.
Of course, Fox News, Young America’s Foundation and other conservative sources accuse the student of being racist. Why are we still accusing black people of racismt? Racism stemmed from a sense of superiority and years of oppressing others. Black people have not oppressed nor assaulted the entire white community, so the voicing of their concerns does not make them racist. It makes them vocal. White folks just cannot seem to fathom the reality that they are historically the most repressive and cruel race in this country.
Some of you will never understand the aggravation that comes with constantly being part of the minority in the room. All students of color want to feel a part of the majority sometimes. That is the purpose of offices and centers such as the one at UVa. The student’s frustration is completely understandable to minority students at predominantly white institutions. Her actions don’t make her racist, they show how fed up she is.