A Call to Black Campus Unity

Miles Henderson, IUP

The first day I drove up to IUP as a freshman I was met with an adornment of Confederate flags across the front of a student apartment on the outskirts of campus.

This, set the tone of my undergraduate experience at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Considering, how the symbol of the confederate flag represents the active suffering of my ancestors who were enslaved by this former would be nation- I became intimately aware of the population I would be schooling with.

Fast forward five years, not even two weeks into the school year, and we are already having racist incidents occur on IUP’s campus. No one is surprised nor astonished, considering the demonstrations of white supremacist and nationalist occurring all over the nation.

As white supremacy is perpetuated at the macro-level it is natural for it to begin showing itself more blatantly on the micro-level as well. As it has revealed itself, we are made acutely aware of the forces at work against us systematically and individually.

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But just perhaps we are a bit concerned about the growing racial tensions on IUP’s campus. Just last year we were paraded as monkey's on social media- now this year we have been reduced back to our people’s 400 year holocaust as slaves- “my slaves” to quote the student. Making light of the darkest time in African American history to make a joke about… grilled cheese.

A picture of burnt bread, with the caption “Just how I like my slaves.” Interesting, this statement reveal two things about this student’s psyche. When you see me and my family, you see slaves and you believe you still have power over these so called slaves for you to claim ownership over them.

We all know that systematic oppression and historical remnants of slavery and its residual effects on this society we call America.

However, I ask my fellow Black students on campus, how much more bigotry, hatred, and ignorance must be showcased by our white-counterparts  before we realize we must invest our energies in ourselves. There should be no response of anger, emotion, or resentment- it is expected, an expectation that has been shown to us time and time again during the duration of our ancestral time in America.

I could write a response to this student, but to what purpose or end. Our time on campus is better used, unifying, and fusing into a cohesive unit. Strengthening our Black campus community. Making our bond from student to student stronger than any half baked joke sent across the Snapchat app.

All growth requires friction, and I challenge IUP’s Black population to use this momentum not to blame this student or victimize themselves, but instead use it as a wake up call.

I challenge us to grow.  

The opinions of white students, on our history and struggles should not matter to us. Opinions will continue to be held despite our best attempts to refute and challenge them. In actuality, many white supremacist are actually acting within their own self interest. There’s nothing wrong with self interest- especially when it comes to your family, tribe, and race.  

Let us act in our own self interest, and that starts with empathizing with one another. Our oppressors clearly will not.

So with regards to that self interest it’s time to change the culture of the Black population on IUP’s campus, change the culture to one of acceptance, unity, and understanding.

To the Black community at IUP, I challenge you. #TrueCultureUChallengesYou

  1. Every time you see a fellow Black student, even if you do not know them speak.
  2. When you shake each other's hands look each other in the eye.
  3. Tell our campus leaders you appreciate them.
  4. Compliment each other.
  5. Support one another’s projects, endeavors and artwork.
  6. Be a mentor to lowerclassmen.
  7. Spend time with fellow Black students you don’t know.
  8. Get involved in organizations that support our interest.
  9. Educate one another.
  10. Say I love you to one another.

The steps I have proposed are not complex, nor difficult. It just requires me to see you in me, and me in you.