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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

We can both be right


A Tale of Two Experiences at St. Joe’s

As a senior at St. Joe’s, I’ve been through my fair share of experiences. Each of which has made me stronger, more resilient and more apt to advocate on behalf of those who feel like they are not being heard. But all of those experiences weren’t good. They did not make me feel good. Many of them broke me.

Last week on Nov. 28, The Hawk published an article titled “Racial slur left on students’ dorm room door” about a racially-bias incident that occurred where two freshmen were targeted. The letters on their felt board were vandalized and formed the racial slur “coons.”

After a long and arduous process of filing a report, not being informed about the process, these student were unsatisfied and turned to their friends and to social media.

The other day a member of our senior level administration walked up to me at work, picked up the newspaper and said, “This is shocking. Can you believe something like this happened?” I was tempted to pacify the belief of many white people who think we are living in a post-racial society, but I couldn’t. Not this time.

The incident published in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hawk was in no way surprising to me. I told him that it was actually more common than most people desired to acknowledge, even at our beloved institution.

The system in this country has been rigged to work against black and brown people for centuries. Is it that hard to believe that it has trickled down into the institutions? The comments made by people in positions of leadership, who should be unbiased and help to navigate us through policies and procedures, are often gross and insensitive.

Students are told their backgrounds give them different perceptions of what the result of something is or is not; students who have been victimized are often told that they need to be more understanding and should forgive people who clearly attacked them with malicious intent. We are expected to just roll over and take it.

Earlier this week, a recently graduated St. Joe’s alum commented on the post of the article saying the two students’ board was doctored and said “this did not happen at SJU, we accept all.” He implied that his experience was great and completely erased the possibility of anything other than greatness.

The acknowledgement of an act of hate where a racial slur was written on the door of the only two women of color in a residence hall floor does not erase another person’s positive experience.

However, the denial of a racially-biased experience not only invalidates members of marginalized groups at St. Joe’s who continue to face discrimination daily, but it also absolves the institution from any progress toward making St. Joe’s more inclusive and not just diverse.

Because let’s be honest, you can invite all the people of color, all of the women, all of the low-socioeconomic individuals and all of the members of the LGBTQIA, but with experiences like these and no justice, how many of them are going to actually stay?

With all of the chaos around campus, there are very few people that have been advocates in more than just word but in deed.

We’re not looking to be pacified or even comforted. We are looking for validation, looking for someone to tell us that we are not going crazy. Someone that is not going to say, “Wow, that’s weird because I never had an experienced like that, I’ve only had good ones.” Someone that will not only affirms our experience but present us with a plan of action.

I am reminded of what Jennifer Dessus, Ed.D., director for Inclusion and Diversity Access Programs, once said to me, “You can’t tell me that lemon in water is lemonade.”

It’s like someone telling you about your experience. How can you say that something that is bitter for me is actually sweet? This forced singular view is doing just that. It places the St. Joe’s experience into a narrow box and if you’re not getting this unified outcome, then there is something wrong with you, not with the place.

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