An ideal college campus has a healthy dose of diversity that reflects the real world. Unfortunately, due to cost of attendance and geographical location, most college campuses have a skewed population. Minority students sometimes struggle to feel welcome on campus – which may become detrimental to their mental, academic, and physical well-being. Non-minority students should help boost their voices on campus by understanding the social movements in which minority students follow and the issues these movements endorse. Here are two examples of very successful programs involving college students:
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter formed following the murder of the black, unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin. On February 26th, 2012, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, called 911 to report Martin's 'suspicious activity' before fatally shooting him. Uncovered evidence suggested that Zimmerman acted because he was wary of Martin's race – and not the actual threat of criminal activity. The Black Lives Matter movement gained further traction after the distressing murder of Michael Brown in 2014. Brown was shot numerous times by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests erupted in Ferguson and across the United States – with followers that represent all intersections of gender, ability, citizenship and experience. "[They] are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise."
The echoes of the Black Lives Matter message left an imprint on the University of Missouri football team and other student organizations, who all called for the Mizzou President Tim Wolfe's resignation. This protest followed inaction of school leaders when dealing with racial issues on campus. The football team, with their coaches' support, refused to play or practice until Wolfe stepped down. The refusal to play games could have cost the university $1 million in cancellation fees. The Missouri football team showed immense courage – risking their scholarships, academic standing, and image on a national level for a controversial but necessary cause.
Cripple Punk (or C-Punk for those uncomfortable using the slur) is a movement by the physically disabled, for the physically disabled. It was accidentally created by Tumblr user @Crpl-Pnk, or Tai/Tyler, who posted a grunge-style selfie with a cane and the words 'Cripple Punk' in the caption. The picture went viral, and so did the rejection of stereotypes. Tyler said Cripple Punk is here for the bitter cripple and the un-inspirational cripple –fighting the idea that all cripples must be wonderful people, all the time.
The movement respects all intersections of race, gender, culture, sexual/romantic orientation, size, intersex status, mental illness, neurodivergent, and survivor status. Cripple Punk recognizes that there is no universal disabled experience, and encourages followers to understand unfamiliar experiences. Participating in the activism is not conditional on things like what kind of mobility aids one uses, or how much one can 'function.' One goal of the movement is to fight internalized ableism (feelings of internalized discrimination of disabilities produced by society) They also strive to empower those currently struggling to own their disabled identity through body positivity. This allows the community to choose how they are seen, and to be unapologetically disabled.
It is not unusual as a disabled person to feel isolated from others who share your experiences. The Internet has created a space to seek out others with similar experiences, learn from each other, and motivate each other. This online community is incredibly important, as it is often difficult for disabled people to participate in typical protests. Many cannot march because of the nature of their conditions, or the unfortunate reality that many protests are still inaccessible.
Simple ways to amplify minority voices
Following these movements is perhaps the easiest way to show support, whether it be by attending events, retweeting hashtags, or signing petitions. Rally for a more diverse faculty, multicultural centers, and more accessible counseling or tutoring services for minority students. Elect to take an ethic studies or diversity course to listen and understand other worldviews— this may be the first time you are faced with perspectives different from your own. Seek to understand the history of your institution and its potential shortcomings and rally for change with your peers whenever possible. Make your college a place that everyone would want to attend; your campus diversity starts with encouragement.