From ‘Black While Driving’ to ‘Black While Walking’ to ‘Black While … Being a Student?,’ racism in this country has not gone away, nor has it vastly improved; it has only progressed.

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Likely in light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests, a number of “Black At _____” accounts have popped up across Instagram, giving Black students at different colleges across the nation a safe place to anonymously share their experiences on and around their respective campuses. On June 24, @blackatwhittier posted for the first time, encouraging “Black members of the Whittier College community (both current and former) to share their stories and experiences with racism and microaggressions” on this anonymous platform.

As expressed by many of the comments on these posts and the anonymous voices within the posts themselves, Black students do not often receive the opportunity to be heard and listened to when it comes to issues like sexual assault, harassment from campus safety, bullying or blatant racism from peers, and microaggressions from members of the College community. The @blackatwhittier account strives to change that.

“It’s the first time people are listening and caring.” -Christina Brown, Class of 2017

Unfortunately, some discourse surrounding the ownership of the account has taken away from the overall meaning and purpose of it, given that it was founded by one Black student and one White student. Alumna Christina Brown, class of 2017, offered herself as a non-anonymous face for the Instagram page for anyone who had doubts about the ownership of the page. Brown posted a brief video to Instagram talking about the existence and importance of the account as a whole. In the video, ‘Black at Whittier Insta page,’ posted to her Instagram account, @missxtinab, Brown said, “This isn’t the first time that these people are sharing these experiences, I bet, but it’s the first time people are listening and caring.”

Brown shared, too, that when she tried to talk about her experiences during her time on campus, they fell on deaf or mocking ears, and no one cared to take her seriously. That is what makes this page so important. This page calls out people and groups, such as the Athenian Society, who have subjected Black members of the College community to these experiences.

While these posts do not name anyone in particular, apart from the Athenian Society (as a whole — still no single person in particular), these people know who they are, and we as members of the College community know that people like them exist in what is supposed to be a safe space — our campus.

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And, yes, this page has, and will continue, to make people uncomfortable — in a necessary way. Seeing a community, and a Society within that community, be called out for something like blatant racism and intolerable ignorance is uncomfortable. However, if you ever think you are going to feel comfortable discussing race, think again.

No one feels comfortable discussing race because race is an uncomfortable topic, but that does not mean we should stop ourselves from talking about it. It is incredibly important to discuss what goes on on campus so we can all learn and change, or else Whittier College will never be a safe, open community for everyone. Brown recalled her time on campus, “Whittier College is five percent Black people — do you know how isolating of an experience that is?” At the very least, we need non-Black members of the community to understand what Black students and staff go through.

Right now, the most important thing for the College to do is to highlight these voices and take steps to actually create change on campus, which could mean a variety of things. What many comments on @blackatwhittier’s posts have highlighted are changes like: more effort to create and accept actual diversity (because a community made up mostly of one minority group, the Latinx community, does not count as diversity) within the staff and students, more classes that integrate Black culture and history that are not already based around such, an effort to actually listen to and believe

Photo courtesy of Jalil The Photographer. (@jalilitheartist)

Photo courtesy of Jalil The Photographer. (@jalilitheartist)

Black students and staff when they report what they have turned to @blackatwhittier to speak about, and efforts to identify and fire or, at the very least, discipline racist staff members. It is not enough to say “we hear you;” it is about time you hear us. If Whittier College wants to prove that the “College strives to be responsive to the experiences [the] Black students, staff, and faculty have to share,” (quoted from the College’s Instagram post in response to the @blackatwhittier page), then at least some of what current and former student’s Instagram comments have suggested need to actually take place, and the College needs to keep us updated on what changes are being made.

Likewise, if the Athenian Society wishes to prove that they “hear [us],” and they truly are sorry for “those who have been affected and women who have felt shunned or less than by [the] society based on color,” (quoted from the Society’s Instagram post, also in response to the @blackatwhittier page), real, substantial changes need to be made for the Black community on campus. An Instagram post or two is not enough. Of course, the same goes for other colleges that have had ‘Black at _____’ Instagram pages made for their communities: @blackatnsa, @blackatsmh, @blackatcornell, and dozens more. Students expect and deserve transparency, solidarity, and real, sustainable change, or else no college or society can claim diversity and safety for their community.

To read more about the experiences of Black students and alumni on Whittier Campus, visit @blackatwhittier on Instagram.

Author

  • Brianna Wilson is an English major who has been with the Quaker Campus since her first year at Whittier College. In-between work and school, Brianna loves journaling, working out, and watching YouTube videos (mostly from the gaming community).

Brianna Wilson is an English major who has been with the Quaker Campus since her first year at Whittier College. In-between work and school, Brianna loves journaling, working out, and watching YouTube videos (mostly from the gaming community).
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