We're in the midst of a social apocalypse.
Based on the horrific killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, I'm no longer ashamed to say that I fear for my life, my family's lives, and my fellow black friends' lives. I'm not ashamed to call out any non-black person I know for not speaking out over centuries of injustice and mistreatment towards my community.
They say that silence is golden, but as of now, silence is bullshit.
With all of my strength, I can say I am disgusted with my own school, Penn State. I'm disgusted with the double standards they've imposed on students of color. I'm disgusted with the audacity most of my fellow students have this week.
Let's take sophomore Sean Setnick (I tried to refrain from adding two more K's to his surname). He was in a car with people who used hate speech while driving by a group of protesters. Videos of the incident were identified on Twitter and sparked chaos among many students, like myself, who demanded expulsion.
How about sophomore Ryann Milligan? A anti-Semitic photo of the student and two others floated around social media, as they shamelessly flaunted swastikas on their shoulders. A petition, like Setnick, was made to expel this student.
Later that week, President Eric Barron and the university released statements claiming that a "public university does not have the power to expel students over speech, no matter how morally reprehensible it may be," while also revealing in the same statement that the school "has the power to condemn racism and address those who violate [Penn State] values."
Penn State also claimed that the school contacted Milligan for the anti-Semitic post.
Penn State truly has never addressed any racial issues in the past four years, yet it's known for its eagerness to make anyone who isn't white feel included in a school that's mainly white. I chose to attend Penn State because of its promising diversity effect and for having a multicultural scholarship as the cherry on top, but there's nothing diverse about Penn State, and I should've known that.
Considering this is a school with a sports-oriented reputation, I always believed that Penn State cared more about its athletic department than social issues.
Students get the dumb football games at Beaver Stadium every fall semester. They also get racial discrimination every day, with a few forcible sex offenses, snow days, and crowded CATA buses here and there.
Instead of immediately expelling these students, Penn State is now considering alternatives. I briefly attended a Zoom call with Penn State's president, students and faculty. I listened in fury. It was evident they wouldn't change their decisions on the students, and they basically asked us, "What can the students do about making this change?"
But, as students, we're asking THEM.
Forcing a course on racism on a racist student is not going to change their behavior. That's the equivalent of making a student take a $250 course as a penalty for underage drinking. The racist student and the underage student would take their classes as a joke just to escape expulsion in the first place.
Penn State, your entire premise on diversity and inclusion is set with double standards. You condemn racism, yet you are keeping students who clearly misrepresent your entire mission.
Make that make sense to your black students, PLEASE.
You were so quick to ensure that Greek life at Penn State would change after the tragedy of Timothy Piazza, but neglected the murder of black student Osaze Osagie that following year.
What consequences did you, as a school, truly give after thousands of students rioted in downtown State College?
I witnessed both occasions and didn't see any white student who climbed on street lights get arrested; meanwhile, plenty of innocent black lives have been taken away by police for behaviors that mainly white people partake in.
In retrospect, I won't say that I have personally felt racially discriminated against. No one has ever called me the 'N'-word since I've been at Penn State, but I will say that I've walked on campus every day in fear when a group of white people walk near me. I fear of being called names, appearing as a stereotype to them, and being attacked. At the same time, I question whether they fear me because of the color of my skin.
I can say I have managed to make amazing non-black friends who have reached out to me during this time for emotional and moral support. But, at Penn State, the black community feels like we only have our own backs, because of how poorly misrepresented we are there.
Speaking of misrepresentation, Penn State (this isn't partially your fault), but for a school with millions of activities, student organizations have also lacked in diversity and inclusion. Some people who read this will think this is just me being bitter about my fate with the organization I've been in, but if you know, you know. Out of respect for people I love, I won't say any names. It's up to every reader's discretion.
It all started with this.
the emancipation. 👀 https://t.co/QNPv4Vbhex— trae 🎧 (@trae 🎧) 1583473957.0
March 5, 2020. This day proved to be the worst for my mental health. I attempted to hurt myself that same day (I'm doing well as of now). As the only black man in the organization at the time, I had a lot to prove to myself, to whom I've worked with and to every student.
I wanted to represent the black audiences the organization caters to often. I've received praise from friends and students for all of the hard work I've done during my time to represent black students at Penn State.
However, my mental health, my need to be appreciated and liked by a predominantly white organization, my strong ambitions and sacrifices led to my downfall with the organization. It wasn't what I wanted to happen, but my intuition led me to accept that they were plotting to get me out because I was too much of a liability to them.
To be fair, I was, but only for the sake of growing tired and feeling inferior as a leader. I believe that a lot of black people in the professional area are posed as liabilities when they're too real and honest with what you stand for in life.
No matter how many people are against me in that organization as of now, they know how hard I worked to make the organization look good. I went through hours of work, migraines, crying, and severe depression. It felt like an unpaid full-time job; in fact, it was.
I won't say I've been racially discriminated in the organization, but there was a lot of indirect racial biases that were ignored until I was bold enough to expose it last semester. Calling out the issues in there was something I wasn't good at, because I was too scared and anxious to do so without being labeled as an angry, aggressive black man.
So, instead, I relied on passive aggression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks and self-deprecation because I was undervalued.
Do I have any ill will towards the organization? Absolutely not. I still got love for it.
Do I have any ill will towards particular people? Yes.
However, this is not about them. It's about speaking out on experiences related to the lack of diversity at Penn State. This alone should shine light on any black student who feels misrepresented in student involvement.
Take it from me, Penn State.
Racism and biases are more evident than the diversity and inclusion you promote as a university.
Don't expect students of color to make change when we've been trying to for years. As a school, condemning racism means more than what you're telling us.
Get it together, please.