Newswire Asks: How does racism manifest at Xavier, if at all?

…In offices’ social media

If no changes are made toward the racial climate here at Xavier, the problem will remain in perpetuity.

Last week we saw this issue bear its face again. The Office of Student  Involvement (OSI) published a social media post that included instructions on how to organize protests and demonstrations on Xavier’s campus. It urged students to “do so in a civil manner” and to honor the dignity of those who may disagree with your personal beliefs. This is problematic in the sense that they are policing how students express frustration with the university and different institutions in society. 

Additionally, in a political climate where human rights are deemed “political,” hysterectomies are being performed without consent under Immigration Control Enforcement watch, Black people are murdered in the street by those sworn to protect them and transgender individuals are still killed for identifying how they want. This post validated those who believe these actions are acceptable. 

The post invalidated the efforts of the students who organized and participated in the Speak Up XU protest that occurred two weeks ago, painting them as uncivil, disrespectful and wrong. It was one of the largest, most successful protests Xavier has ever seen. Hundreds of students, faculty and community members participated during a semester with record lack of engagement and record high stress and workloads due to COVID-19. The OSI was quick to offer this criticism without addressing any student concerns or the issues raised at the protest such as minority identity clubs receiving less funding than other student organizations. 

The OSI controls the largest organizing bodies and programs on campus, including the Student Government Association, Student Activities Council and the Manresa program, which themselves are problematic for being historically predominantly white and male-ruled. For the office itself to post that it doesn’t support student protests or concerns speaks volumes.

I have to bring up the fact that this isn’t the first protest to hit Xavier’s yard. In 2018 there were two large protests. Take Back the Night, included marching and We Will Not Be Next was a campus wide walk-out that raised concerns about gun violence and gun control. The difference between these protests and Speak Up XU is that they were organized by SGA and the CDI. The organizers got the university’s blessing before holding these demonstrations. 

Speak Up XU was organic, student led, didn’t ask for permission and most importantly, embarrassed the university. Speak Up XU put Xavier on the news for not having a campus where Black students feel welcome, valued and safe being a part of. 

Those other two protests were directed at rape culture as a whole and gun legislation. This was possibly the largest protest that was directed at Xavier’s administration and the university as a whole.

To bring this back toward offices on campus proving that the university is problematic and is resistant to change, I have to remind everyone that this is not the first time this semester that an office has posted something problematic. 

The Office of Student Affairs published a post that Bishop Fenwick considered his slaves “part of his family” and that they “undoubtedly enjoyed a fair amount of autonomy.” This post was met with an incredible amount of backlash from the Xavier community and was removed quickly, similar to last week’s post. 

The university can claim to care about Black Lives Matter and matters of race here on campus and in the world, but since these prominent offices, directly under the control of Associate Provost and Chief Student Affairs Officer David Johnson, can’t fix the problem, the Diversity and Inclusion plan obviously isn’t working. 

Enough is enough. 

…Microaggressions in the classroom

Racism can be difficult to discuss, but there’s no beating around the bush with how serious of an issue it is and has been in the United States. I grew up with internalized racism. Everyone around me enabled it, encouraged it or dismissed it. Fortunately, I’ve discovered supportive, educational communities within Xavier that I’ve never had before, I’ve seen more people of color than have ever lived in my hometown. 

This doesn’t extinguish the forms in which racism continues to manifest, however. Pictures around Xavier paint a story of diversity with their token Muslim, Black and Asian students as if Xavier is trying to push the image of a diverse group comparable to promotional items shown off to appease an audience.

Fortunately, Xavier practices what it preaches. There’s inclusivity on campus through official offices and organizations. But compared to the reality of Xaver’s White majority, there’s an aura of “fakeness” surrounding the promotion of diversity. 

You can’t control the student body or professors as much as the clubs or organizations. Racial microaggressions occur within classrooms. 

Students of color are shut down and spoken over to blatantly racist comments, which often end up being addressed not by the professor but by the targeted minority. 

The classroom should be the last place where there’s enough racist tolerance to shift the atmosphere into one that may not feel safe anymore.

With the right intentions but the wrong idea, there’s a free invitation for microaggressions and stereotypes, inevitably leading to racism. 

Looking at a Black woman as if they’ve never seen one before may not be the intent of the observer, but imagine how insulting it is to be gawked at. No person of color should have to deal with treatment ignored or uncorrected by authority figures and left to be addressed by the targeted group. Minorities shouldn’t feel forced to defend themselves when no one else will speak up.

There is no opinion on racism, so there is no excuse to permit a student to speak their “opinion” freely. Racism isn’t a point to argue, especially on a campus where students of color must ask for safe spaces. Lack of representation already creates a barrier between feeling as if they truly fit in. 

Students of color are hindered from embracing college experiences while worrying about being a minority on campus and feeling uncomfortable expressing true identities. Inability to express themselves can deteriorate mental health, and Xavier isn’t exactly a campus boasting about the number of counselors of color to go around — let alone Hispanic or Latinx representation. For all the official organizations, there’s a lack of variety in terms of the Hispanic/Latinx group- fitting a diverse amount of cultures into one category.

Xavier needs to do more. Students must learn — regardless of childhood teaching or the area of the world they’ve grown up in — how deeply they can hurt someone with their words. 

You have to go further. You have to take action, advocate and never stop improving conditions for those who haven’t had the same quality of life as the privileged majority no matter their own privileges because we can’t erase our ethnicity or skin color.