On an icy January morning in South Carolina, students at Clemson University gathered at their university’s Center of Social and Athletic Life and marched to the school’s administrative offices to present a list of grievances and demands to Clemson President Jim Clements.
The group, A Coalition of Concerned Students, said its university as a whole and many students within it exhibited a pattern of social injustice that burst out last semester after a fraternity gang-related “Cripmas” party and comments by Clemson students on social media.
For all my fellow APU students who have no clue what a “Cripmas” party is, it’s basically a group of white students congregated together drinking cheap beer, all while dressed in “gangster” clothes in order to spend a night as a stereotyped minority. Oh, and do not even ask me what gangster clothing is, because I have never seen that section at H&M.
Similarly to Clemson University, many APU students and ethnic organizations have come together to create a movement called Activate. According to the coalition, the movement aims to “legitimize the experiences of students of color.”
As a minority student and a member of Activate, I think it is heartbreaking that in 2015, almost 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement ended, college students nationwide have to prove that their experiences of social injustice at universities are valid.
There have been a vast number of instances where current APU students have felt discriminated here. But there is no use in sharing these experiences if no one is willing to listen and understand.
I am not trying to blame you for the racial mistakes others have made but rather point you to the reason for discrimination.
Dear white person on campus, you are privileged. So, let me break down white privilege for you. It is an advantage in social, political and economic circumstances. Basically this means you will always see your race represented accurately in the media, your nation’s history taught properly to your children and your ideas always validated because your race’s customs are considered “the norm” within the United States.
With that being said, the main problem many students and administration have with Activate and its mission is the fact that they do not understand why we are so fed up with this institution’s ideologies. Well, it’s because the university’s programming is unwelcoming to students of color. Never in the history of APU have minority students stood up for themselves, risking criticism and more discrimination from the student body.
We have finally stood up because we are fed up with shallow conversations on diversity, we are done being your poster children for this institution’s supposed diversity-friendly campus and we are most certainly done being ostracized because of our societal, cultural and racial beliefs.
Personally, I am not looking for pity or an apology for the ways I have experienced and seen racial discrimination on campus. What I and other students in Activate want to see is progress and transparency on a campus that firmly supports Kingdom-like diversity.
Perhaps you as a student have never felt discriminated against or seen unequal representation here on campus. You might even be a minority student who cannot attest to social inequality on campus. If that is you, I am grateful that you have not had to endure that, but that does not give you the right to invalidate my experience or assure me that I am over-exaggerating. If Martin Luther King Jr. or Cesar Chavez would have paid attention to people like you, we would still be living in segregation.
Galatians 3:8 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” But unfortunately, we do not live in a colorblind society where sin and hate are foreign things.
I congratulate President Jon Wallace for showcasing his support for Activate during our walkout from chapel this month. It was uplifting to see our chief of diversity tell prospective students and families that the university is aware of the “broken pieces of the body of Christ” and that it is “aiming to fix these things on campus.” I do hope that Wallace’s remarks are true actions toward administrative change on campus rather than a public relations stunt to alleviate the tension of 50+ students leaving chapel.
So my question is: Can you, as a proclaimed Christ follower, handle cultural diversity? Can you really open your eyes to the marginalized around you? Or do you need to go on mission trips to Africa or Latin American countries to feel as if you are making a difference in the world?
Stop ruling out the experiences of others but rather, sit down, listen and understand that we live in a nation where social inequality is more than lynching people or segregation. It is systemic racism, stereotypes, neglect of other cultures and ignorance. I encourage you to take the time to immerse yourself in the things God has created and start activating yourself not only for this campus, but for the world.