Disclaimer: The Rival, LLC and every school in The Rival Network stand in solidarity with the students of color at Mizzou and universities around the country who are working to address institutionalized racism in our schools and beyond. These testimonies attempt to include a variety of views, perspectives, and experiences.
To my white friends,
I’m guilty too. I’m guilty of being scared to talk about my own race for fear of being ignorant or preachy or judged.
That is selfish. I’m electing to protect my ego over contributing to a narrative. It’s a narrative that every student needs to be aware of and act upon like the brave souls at Mizzou and Yale.
Say it with me: I am privileged, I am safe, and I am often blissfully unaware. There are black students that face persecution every day, and we take what we have for granted because we don’t experience such persecution.
We are afraid to acknowledge what’s there because of guilt, but by being silent we are making a statement that says “I would rather protect my feelings than address systemic oppression.”
Why do we do that? Because we can. Because we’re safe. Because if we don’t say anything, nothing will happen.
But something needs to happen.
This is just the beginning. We talk, then we act. So let’s talk.
Josh Strupp | COO at The Rival, LLC
The Rival at Notre Dame
I have benefitted from my whiteness my entire life. Whether or not I was aware of it, it’s true. No one ever insulted me, talked down to me, abused me, or saw me as a threat because of the color of my skin. No one ever threatened my safety when I spoke up against racial slurs and blatant discrimination.
I know the comfort afforded to me by the color of my skin. But I will never know the cost that black people have faced for simply being black in America. I can never begin to identify with what they endure. And as someone who, for most of my life, has prided myself on being knowledgeable and ethical, that terrifies me.
But the more I think about these things, the more I see my own internalized prejudices playing into my daily life. I get uncomfortable when I am the minority in a room (which, at this university, is rare). I stay silent when I hear backwards comments being made about race because, to me, it’s “not worth the drama.” I sometimes feel entitled to speak out against racism on behalf of black people when, truth be told, I don’t know many black people, much less know how they would want to respond in the situation. It’s a scary realization: I am part of the problem.
Despite our best intentions, white people cannot be averse to self-speculation. We simply cannot. We can copy and paste a “#ConcernedStudent1950” status to our Facebook page; we can share articles across social media; we can have conversations about how racism is bad and wrong and has to be eliminated. But if we fail to learn and grow in these instances, white privilege and racism will persist.
I’m going to say something that may scare some of you: if you are white and voice your opinion about a racial issue to a black person, there is a chance that your opinion will be offensive and/or wrong to one degree or another. But we must be open to being corrected by our black peers, and peers of all races, for that matter.
How else can we possibly learn how to correct hurtful patterns of thought and action and move forward? How else can we hope to create a world where there will not be threats of mass violence against black students simply for fighting against discrimination faced at their academic institutions? How else can we begin to bridge this terrible divide?
Talk to people. Engage. Discuss. Speak out when something doesn’t sit right with you. Learn to be an ally to those who fight each day to remind people that the color of their skin should not and does not determine their right to safety, education, social and economic equality, and dignity as a human being. Silence is nothing other than acceptance of the way things are now, and we all know that this cannot continue. This cannot continue. So break the silence. Enough is enough.
–Elise Gruneisen | Director of Content
The Rival at George Mason University
Despite my concerns that this will result in a backlash, I disagree with this sentiment and cannot sign off on it. No, I’m not afraid of commenting on it because of my race– in fact I do comment on it regularly– but I do remain fearful of retaliation because it isn’t a popular view.
My “white privilege” is manifested into reminders that, apparently, I’m responsible for every injustice that happens against someone who isn’t white, directly or not. But I am not guilty for my ancestor’s actions, and assigning blame doesn’t help anything.
My point is that many races have a history rooted in oppression and violence, and calling one out because this nation happens to be majority white doesn’t do anything. The US has a white majority because those are the people who immigrated here. Not just during the colonial era, but during the immigration boom of the turn of the 20th century.
All races face hardships, and while they may be different for each, we all survive off the same food and breathe the same air, and we have to learn to live on this planet with each other. At the end of the day, everyone has to function as a fully independent human being, and asking someone to take on the added weight of both guilt and rebuilding society because of their race is not only wrong, but hurtful.
Improving our society, country, and world cannot be on the shoulders of one race. If we want to fix anything for anyone, we have to work together, and upholding white guilt is only serving to tear us apart.
– Josh Denty | Writer
The Rival at Howard University
I want to clarify something: white privilege does not insinuate that every white person is responsible for every injustice that happens against someone who isn’t white. The issue is not to have white people feel guilty for their ancestor’s actions. The issue is not slavery.
The issue is the oppression of black people in 2015, when people both black and white alike tend to be in denial about racism, creating “reverse racism.” There is no assigning blame. Black people are not angry at white people for having white privilege. How can they when white people were born with that privilege?
All black people want is an acknowledgement. An acknowledgement that shows white people understand that many black people do not have the same resources afforded to them. They want an acknowledgement that white people understand how hard it is to focus on looking presentable and not suspicious for something as arbitrary as the color of their skin.
White privilege means that you have the upper hand. It is not about how much money you have or where you grew up or the type of friends you have. It is the color of your skin, no matter the statistics of white vs. black people in this world. If all races face hardships and live off the same resources, then why are black people afraid to live on this planet, specifically the US, while white people are not?
Look at The Taft School, a preparatory private boarding school in Connecticut, where there was only one black girl in the graduating class of 2012. This black girl had to speak for her race daily, always afraid of saying the wrong thing to be labeled as angry or ghetto. This girl allowed her friends to say the n-word and even justified it for fear of being shunned. She lived in fear everyday because of the color of her skin and how it affected her place at the school, in her family, and in the world.
Her father is a Marine, her brother works at a law firm, her twin goes to The Naval Academy, and her eldest brother is in the Air Force. However, somehow she still feels the need to call them daily to make sure they’re alive, they’re safe.
So before you decide to not stand with black people or students of color, try to think of a time when you lived in fear every day because of the color of your skin. Think of a time when people wanted to shut you up when all you want is to not live in fear. Think of a time when people tried to redefine what it mean to have a privilege or to be racist so that they wouldn’t have to feel guilty.
Understand the pain. Help black people get through this. If it was not a problem, then why are we scared? I say we because I am that black girl from Taft. I live in fear for me and my brothers daily. I once was in denial. I once self-hated. But it is time to take a stand and stop hiding behind inaccuracies.
–Alexis Rogers | Director of Communications
The Rival at Indiana University
Upon hearing about the issues taking place at the University of Missouri, I was saddened by the blatant disrespect and utter ignorance of a large number of people. To think that not just a few people, but an entire race is being singled out and ridiculed, threatened for something as simple as the color of their skin, made me lose respect and faith for the world in which we live. I reflected on these occurrences internally, thinking about what I would do if it was me who was being threatened for being white.
Never once have I felt that my race has put me in danger while walking on campus. In the few times I have been pulled over for routine traffic stops and minor violations, I was only concerned about how my parents would react to a possible ticket–never to how the police officer would treat me. I have never feared that a company would not consider hiring me. Why? Because I’m white.
But even putting those situations into words makes me feel undeserving. I fuck up just like any other human on this planet. There is no difference between how I perform in school in comparison to my classmates of all racial backgrounds. If people are just people, and skin color is just a concept, why am I being treated in a much more fair way than others in a lot of cases?
The bottom line of the race discussion that I’ve found is that there is no discussion. Race has always been a topic that is “too common” or “too broad” for people to discuss, which works against reaching a solution. We pass the issues onto the people who come off as more ignorant or unaccepting of different races, just to clear ourselves of the blame.
That’s just it, though–there’s a lesson to be learned in the fact that white people find talking about race to be uncomfortable, but black people find talking about race to be a necessity.
No better tomorrow will be achieved until we recognize that white privilege DOES exist.
And that comes with the understanding that words matter. The problem with white people talking about race is that they inherently try to make the conversation about them. But if we’re being honest, the only “us” that should take precedence is the “us” that needs to listen to the anger of the oppressed minorities. It is NOT us that should be complaining about being oppressed or marginalized, because that simply isn’t true.
I am undeservingly blessed to know that my race will probably never cause issues while I pursue my future plans. But because I am white and because I am aware of the injustices facing others who may not be as privileged, I will take a stand on the matters that really make a difference. Society will not be considered equal, whole, balanced or healthy until we start talking about the things that really matter.
–Shelbey Vandenbroucke | Director of Content
The Rival at George Washington University
As a white girl, I’m scared to talk about race with people who are not also white. I prefer to listen. I prefer to read articles about it. I prefer to sit back while others debate. I prefer to absorb all I can about the issues that, frankly, I can never fully understand because I’m just a white girl.
I don’t know if this is good for me or my black friends or society, but I do it. I do it because I know that I will never understand, but feel that by listening, I will get as close as I can – even though I will never fully understand because I’m just a white girl.
I think white people often make the argument that since they can’t understand, it’s better to remove themselves from the conversation. But in light of what’s happening at Mizzou (and in light of having to have someone represent GW for The Rival to write about race), I’m learning that removing myself from the conversation doesn’t help remove racism from our country.
Racism is deep-rooted, something injected so deeply into America’s culture that it won’t cease to exist because the brave black students at Mizzou won a small victory in the grand scheme of the war against non-white races. And these small victories have been happening all throughout America’s history. The Emancipation Proclamation was a small victory. The passage of the Fifteenth Amendment was a small victory. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a small victory. Electing a black president was a small victory. These are all small victories, even if we classify them as gigantic feats.
Racism may be uprooted after many small victories, but those victories are but commas in the ever-present battle and have to continue until we reach a period.
“What do I know, though, because I’m just a white girl, right?” That can’t be the argument. The end of racism has to come from all races. It has to be a collaborative effort. Choosing to avoid the conversation because it’s uncomfortable or because you’re the privileged race won’t lead to that final victory – it will just highlight your privilege.
We need to be uncomfortable. We can’t be scared to fuck up and say something just completely wrong. We need to make mistakes in conversations about race and then be corrected – not reprimanded – for them. We need to talk about race with people of other races because that’s how to truly learn to fix the problem in ourselves.
Realizing the flaws in our own judgments is a small victory and it’s one we can all personally achieve – even if you are just a white girl.
–Quinn Scanlan | Director of Content
The Rival at American University
To my white friends,
Now is not the time to refuse to acknowledge current social events because it just doesn’t affect you. So please–
-Stop believing that reverse racism is real.
-Stop replying #AllLivesMatter when you see #BlackLivesMatter.
-Stop trying to refute the fact that your skin color will give you advantages no matter what.
-Stop trying to prove that you’re not “racist” by counting off the number of POC friends you have.
-Stop thinking that every form of discrimination towards you is the same as systematic racism.
-Stop saying shit like “slavery was ages ago.”
-Don’t call yourself an ally if you only tweet or post on Instagram when a hashtag exists to save you the work of being updated and aware on current social issues.
-Realize that you have the privilege of not having to think about your race all the time.
– Realize that being friends with someone who is a POC does not mean you are free of racist sentiments.
-Stop saying that you understand that what’s going on is wrong but then having the audacity to say “you don’t know why it’s such a big deal.”
To you, these issues probably never cross your mind (white privilege), but they ARE important and DESERVE ATTENTION because we live in a society where a white man can kill an unarmed black teen and continue to walk the streets unscathed.
We live in a society where the presence of the KKK on a college campus is not considered a “threat” to state police, but when a 14-year-old boy brings his project to school, he is automatically arrested for the preconceptions based on race.
We live in a society where white people burn cars and smash shop windows when their city’s sports team loses, yet when black people do the same to protest for a social issue, it’s seen as barbaric and savage.
We live in a society where a white policeman can forcefully throw and drag a black teenage girl across the classroom floor and have his actions excused with “well she wasn’t paying attention in class, she deserved that.”
We live in a society where discriminatory things can be said on college campuses and have no administrative response from the university.
We live in a society where a man who labels Mexicans as filthy and dirty can be a front-running presidential nominee.
There’s nothing wrong with being white. But there is something wrong with being white, refusing to take action, refusing to accept the fact that you are privileged, and refusing to acknowledge all the injustice in our world.
Your silence is violence.
–Waner Liang | Staff Writer
The Rival at University of Miami
We’re Generation Y. We’re the open-minded ones. We’re the tolerant ones. Segregation and the Civil Rights movement are things from the past. We’re not that old dude who makes offensive comments. We’re college-educated, politically correct, and accepting of everyone.
Wrong. What’s happened at schools like Missouri and Yale slams you right in the face with a sign that says We Are Not Above This. The fact that systematic racism occurs across “institutions of higher learning” aligns us with the older, close-minded generations we think we’re better than.
But we’re not. For those of us who are white, race is probably something that barely crosses your mind unless you’re reading about it. You might be horrified by the unrighteous police brutality against yet another black victim. You might shake your head in disbelief at the latest threats and demeaning insults. But you go about your day. You ignore the fact that your sorority doesn’t have ONE black girl in it. You barely flinch when your friend uses the n-word in casual conversation.
Then the media brings to your attention the blatant racism on other college campuses. And you shake your head again. But there needs to be more than a shaking of our heads and a Facebook post in solidarity. There needs to be a change. And it begins with us.
Racism is no longer a national issue where we simply tweet #BlackLivesMatter and frown upon crazy Confederate-flag wavers and cruel police officers. It is no longer something separate from us, the so-called generation of tolerance and acceptance and open-mindedness. This is our problem. And the best way to combat it is to not only look at the big picture, but also within ourselves and even on our own college campuses.
It starts with being aware of personal biases as well as the ones around us. It starts with not rolling your eyes at your Uber driver who can’t speak English. It starts with not using someone’s race when describing something negative he or she did. It starts with not calling a Hispanic in Miami a “rafter” or “Mexican.” It starts with recognizing that black people are discriminated against for something as superficial as their skin color, and that it’s on us– the “more enlightened” generation– to change that. It’s on us to perpetuate an attitude of equality. It’s about making “their” problem, our problem.
–Melanie Martinez | Director of Content
The Rival at Duke University
Firstly, peers and fellow college students, you all are so incredibly talented and passionate about so many different things. We are constantly wowed by the intelligence and ambition we see from all of our peers on a daily basis. But, there seems to be a lack of passion (for the most part) surrounding issues that minority students– and minorities in general– face.
We love that you all start charities and raise money and awareness about issues ranging from breast cancer to animal advocacy but would love to see even a fraction of that passion directed towards fighting for issues that affect minority students/citizens. A few of you genuinely care about these things, but for the most part, most of you do not exert much energy towards these issues beyond liking a facebook status.
We know it is difficult to conceptualize what you yourself can do to combat the seemingly insurmountable beast that is racism. But there are so many small things that individuals can do. What we want to ask for you to do is to start using your white privilege for the benefit of those who were not born into it. You do benefit from white supremacy and racism (whether you realize it or not). We do not. But you can use your white privilege to help combat racism!
Because you are white, your privilege and supremacy ensures that people of all colors are more inclined to listen to what you have to say, including and especially other white people. Be purposeful with your privilege.
You have the power to become agents of change and justice. You have an incredible opportunity (perhaps even a responsibility) to help ensure that every person, regardless of the amount of melanin they possess, has a fair chance for a happy and healthy life. We need you to care about these issues because the truth is, we can’t do it without you.
Pay attention to the injustices happening around you and intervene when you can, because your voice does indeed matter. Post articles on facebook about racism instead of just liking your black friends’ posts. Start conversations with your other white friends about racism. Take an African American studies class. Learn about racial issues through research and reading. It is difficult to reject and name your privilege, but it must be done in order to make our campus, and by extension our world, a more equitable and loving place for everyone.
ASK QUESTIONS! We can not emphasize this enough. A common sentiment we often hear from Duke students is “I would like to talk about racism, but I feel like everytime I try I get attacked for not knowing stuff” or “I would, but I feel uncomfortable.” We promise most black/minority students would jump at the chance to have a productive conversation about racial issues. And being uncomfortable is never fun, but if we can deal with microaggressions and the myriad of manifestations of structural racism, you can deal with being uncomfortable for a couple of minutes. If your discomfort can help change the world and alleviate the suffering of others, isn’t that worthwhile? Uncomfortable discussions lead to productive dialogue, solutions, and more mutual understanding.
We don’t love talking about this stuff either. We wish we didn’t have to. But unlike you, we don’t really have a choice. We didn’t create racism, we were just born into it. So ask us stuff! That’s how you learn, and we desperately want you to gain awareness about these issues. If anyone has any questions, and you don’t know anyone to talk to, send us a message! Comment on this post! Come sit with us at The Loop! Come to a “black” party (and no, because I’ve been asked before, they aren’t scary, and no one is going to be mad that you showed up)! Suggest to your fraternity or sorority that you mix with a historically black fraternity or sorority. Go to a talk or a meeting given by the BSA or one that focuses on black issues. Come to the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture and just hang out (there is jazz on Wednesdays and Freestyle Fridays with food and music.) Or just invite a black acquaintance to hang out outside of class, to watch a movie or drink some wine and listen to Drake or something, anything!
Here are some resources to get you started.
-Read Ta-Nehesi Coates’ new book, “Between the World and Me”. He also has AMAZING articles that he has written for The Atlantic about black America, the most notable being an expose on how the US government created the ghettos and his most recent profiling of the rise of the prison industrial complex and its devastating effect on black families
-Do not forget Ferguson. Do not forget Michael Brown. Do not blame black victims for getting killed simply for exercising their humanity. Non-violent refusal to cooperate shouldn’t result in death.
-Look for the facts behind the stereotypes and pathologies. There are 1.5 million black men missing from society.
-Remember Jim Crow. Remember that black people have been enslaved longer in this country than we have been free.
-Realize that black people and other minorities suffer the brunt of environmental destruction. -Look at the insurgency of white supremacist group membership since Obama was elected.
-Do not forget the Charleston shooting. Do not forget Sandra Bland.
-Be intersectional in your awareness (for example, women of color suffer disproportionately from sexual assault and from crimes in the LGBTQ+ community.)
-Look at the black-white health gap.
-Understand what white privilege is and how it manifests in your everyday life.
-Consider yourself a hip-hop fan? Learn more about the history, and how cultural appropriation manifests in pop culture. It’s not enough to like black culture but not black people.
-Think critically about gentrification (the process of replacing the poor population of a neighborhood with the affluent and reorienting the district along upscale lines) and how it displaces minorities. Start noticing the gentrification of Durham or your hometown.
-Ask your black friends about their experiences with racism. Don’t have any black friends you can talk to about these issues? Recognize that that in itself is an issue.
Ultimately we recognize that as black Duke students we represent the privileged elite of Black America. We understand that we are in a position to influence our peers into action, the future Powerful People of America, and especially you, the white moderates, whom MLK once referred to as the “Negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom.”
At Duke, we enjoy a level of protection and opportunity inaccessible to the vast majority of black Americans. And that is why we fight. Not for the microaggressions, not for the lack of representation, but for the millions of black Americans who remain oppressed, ostracized, and marginalized to the periphery of society and the black Americans who do not lack talent, only opportunity. We fight for our history, and more importantly we fight for our future. And that future cannot exist with your commitment to justice, white people of Duke.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., history will not remember “the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Micah & Liz | Writers
The Rival at George Mason University
I, Jacob Rupe, am afraid to talk about race because I fear backlash for having an opinion on racial topics.
I’m often afraid to talk about race beyond a person-to-person audience because I am incredibly afraid that if I say something wrong on the internet, or something is taken out of context, I could be labeled a bigot or a racist in the next national twitter witch hunt.
I believe in equal rights and freedom of speech for people of all colors, backgrounds, and ethnicities, but I am afraid to share my voice because my voice lacks the authority on racial topics that people of color have. I chose instead to listen and learn and mute my voice out of fear. This fear I feel is nothing compared to the fear a young black man has when he encounters a policeman in Baltimore.
There is no way for me to understand racial oppression, but I hope everyone confessing their fears about racial anxiety will help us learn from each other as a nation and begin the healing process.
–Jacob Rupe | Director of Content, The Rival GMU