Black Voices At UR
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

Black Voices At UR

Richmond's black community thrives and our voices should be heard.

97
Black Voices At UR
Morgan Mitchell

I walk around the University of Richmond standing at a triumphant 5 feet tall, sporting a healthy afro puff for added height, and always with a smile on my face. But as happy as I am to be a student here, something isn’t quite right. Any African American student at a predominantly white institution (PWI) like University of Richmond can tell you the familiarity of this feeling. To tell the truth, I do not look like the default University of Richmond student- and this is confirmed by the subtle surprise and I get whenever I meet adults and tell them that I’m a proud Spider. On a campus like mine, it’s all too easy to feel like you don’t belong, and that makes the entire college experience different from what most are going to have. Despite this diversity issue that is out of my control, the black community at Richmond thrives and excels.

I believe that their voices always should be heard, so I spoke to Ivana Marshall (class of 2017) and Dr. Bertram Ashe (professor of English and American Studies). I wanted to know more about their own experiences compared to mine, so I asked them a few questions about issues that I’ve had to confront during my first few weeks on campus.

At Richmond, the first thing we confront as black students is having to become instantly more aware of our identity since it differs from the majority of the school. “When I walk around our campus, my campus, I am often hyper-aware of the way that both my body and my presence are politicized by peers and faculty. As an almost six-foot, dark-skinned, black woman with a huge afro, I can see the stares and hear the whispers miles away. Often, I think people are intrigued or curious. I am approached regularly with questions and compliments about my appearance.” explains Ivanna.

Dr. Ashe is a highly revered professor at Richmond, but his experience isn’t too different from ours. He writes “I’m both aware and unaware of my blackness on campus. It’s the familiar hypervisibility and invisibility canard, I suppose. It’s hard to tell how others view me, but I generally feel my status as professor is respected by those who should show me respect...Sure, I’m more aware of my racial identity at this PWI, but then, I would likely be more aware of my black individuality at an HBCU… I hope other blacks here at UR are finding community wherever they seek it, no matter whom that community consists of. I’d be happy if that was the case.”

It isn’t uncommon for black students to be the subject of the social curiosities of fellow classmates, and I’ve also had to deal answering questions about the versatility of my hair, clothing, and the way I speak. Who we are is natural to us, and explaining yourself to another student can sometimes confirm your identity as an outsider. Despite the many cultural Q&A sessions I will inevitably have, I find them to be healthy, productive discussions that expose my classmates to a world that they may have never interacted with otherwise. So far, I am always met with support and acceptance, and more than often I find myself more similar to other people than we all expected.

The way we are viewed by other classmates who we don’t have the chance to speak to is a different story. The sad reality of black students in predominantly white institutions is that there will always be people who make assumptions about us based on stereotypes, and not who we really are. We are burdened with knowing that students often already think they know our story, and they almost always get it wrong.

I’ve experienced many of the people I have met so far being taken aback by my upbeat, optimistic, and extroverted personality. When they ask what I love and what I want to study, they never expect my unparalleled passion for art history. Many have a one size fits all perception of black students despite the fact that they are always incorrect. I am aware that the first impression people have of me is a reserved young woman with no interest in social interaction with others, and it is ultimately a product of historical and contemporary judgments placed upon young black men and women.

Ivanna describes a similar situation, even though she is in fact one of the most incredible women I have ever met in my life. “As a senior,” she says “I have grown accustomed to the hustle and bustle of fully involved college life. Recently, one of my advisors told me that she was “worried about me” because I had barely blinked in the midst of total chaos. To others, this calm exterior comes off as intimidating, which is another term I hear more often than I would prefer. Sometimes, I cannot distinguish if I intimidate people because of my stature...” She says that “I have to be hyper- aware of the way that I present myself around campus. Despite that, my goal has always been to not lose my voice out of fear that I am subduing someone else’s.” This goes to show that even the most intelligent and friendly black students on our campus are subject to having to confront the way that people have predicted us to behave.

Despite the issues that black students face on our campus, it is important to know that we all thrive and excel in countless ways. We learn to channel the embracing of our identity into building a strong sense of community within our academic and social extracurriculars. We are not afraid of speaking up for ourselves, nor do we fear our opinion being dismissed by classmates who do not value our perspective. As black students at the University of Richmond, we will never allow the politics that come with our skin color stop us from growing and achieving everything in our hearts. As Ivana writes, “I have been able to channel any negative conversations and interactions that I’ve had into constructive work spaces. In my class assignments, I make sure to talk about social justice. In my extra- curricular involvements, I only surround myself with people who have passions for causes that are greater than self- serving mentalities. Because I am hyper- aware of my identity and presence on campus, I only channel my energy into things I love doing.”

Me, Ivana, and Dr. Ashe are only a small part of our larger black community on campus. There are many other black voices and stories that we must, as a student body, work to make an inclusive space for. Our voices must always be heard, and always be received with value. As black students, we are always embracing our identity instead of shying away from it. We are constantly growing and evolving into the scholars and leaders of the future, adorned by our dark skin, kinky hair, intellect, and never ending passion.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

We truly love it here in the Badger State. Here are a few things Wisconsinites can relate to.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Five Types Of People In Fall

From yummy pumpkin spice lattes to scary movies, fall has it all and then some.

1349
Destination Logan County Illinois

Oh fall, the most marvelous time of year...right? Every approaches fall differently, some pumpkin spice-tastically and some not so enthusiastically. We can't all be Autumn lovers, so here are five types of people in fall. Grab a cup of hot coca, sit back, and enjoy.

Keep Reading... Show less
https://unsplash.com/photos/XdbUsFkAwqA

If you're like me, by this time of year you're over summer. The beach, the sunshine, and the heat were all great, but now we're itching for blanket scarves, football, and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! As the new season approaches, your relationship can benefit from some old traditional dates and some new fresh ideas! Here are a couple great date ideas for you and your boo to try out this fall.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

Social Media Or Soul Media

To the generation that cares way too much about affirmation.

4458
Emma Smith
  • This semester I am taking the ever so famous class, Writing 101. Walking into it, I had heard the horror stories about each major assignment. I have to admit, it’s not a class that I am fond of. But, major assignment #2 got me thinking, we had to create a research question based off of a topic that we are interested in.

Two weeks prior, I watched a very interesting documentary on Netflix. Miss Representation was recommended to me by one of my friends and I have to say the topic is absolutely mind blowing. Social Media and Female Body Image. How Social Media makes girls see this unnatural perfection of ‘beauty’ that really doesn’t exist. But female body image isn’t the only thing affected by social media.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Sex And The Church

A letter to fellow believers.

5175
Amanda Hayes
  • I know many of you just read that title and thought it was scandalous to see something so “risque” in the same setting as something holy. Well guess what – sex is part of that. Everyone seems to think they are separate, which makes since because most people treat them as though they are complete polar opposites. Shall we think this through?

Who created the Church body? God. Who created the body? Also God. If we know God to be the creator of all things, we cannot leave sex out of that equation. God created sex, people! Praise Him! Like all great things, the world has twisted and perverted it. The world has stained it so badly that even many church congregations see it only as stained and keep quiet about that part of God’s word. Many people know that God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), but a lot of people overlook the entirety of Song of Solomon. The entire book is dedicated to telling of the love and sex between man and wife. God blessed us with the gift of intimacy, one to be shared between husband and wife. Church if we teach of sex as the blessing that it is, more people will start treating it as such. If we stop viewing sex as this unspeakable act, the temptation would be lessened. With the fall of man, humans naturally desire things they should not have. So if more people speak of it with gladness and praise, and do not hide it in the darkness as if it were vile, fewer people would be drawn to it for the wrong reasons. More people would appreciate it for what it is: a gift from God.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments