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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

Looking for change

Cantave sits in the commuter lounge attached in Simpson Hall. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Jaulie Cantave on her first year at St. Joe’s

As part of The Hawk’s coverage of Black History Month, and ongoing coverage of race and diversity on campus, we interviewed  black students about their experiences at St. Joe’s.

Our final Q&A is with Jaulie Cantave ’22, a commuter student who lives in Southwest Philadelphia.  

After Cantave graduates with her dual degree in English and secondary education, she plans to participate in St. Joe’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program, where she would serve as an administrator in an under-resourced Catholic school for two years while pursuing her masters degree.

How significant is the fact that St. Joe’s is a majority white school?

I feel like America is a majority white place. I can’t escape it, not for the most part at least. It is significant in the fact that I have to deal with my race, even if I don’t feel like dealing with my race. Not that I am ashamed of being black, but that shouldn’t be the first thing people see when they see me. That shouldn’t be the first thing I have to talk about or defend. When you are a minority that is the first thing people see you as—you are a minority first. They see you as black first. But some days it is just like I don’t want to talk about this. I am not the spokesperson for every black person. I am not the spokesperson for every minority. I am the spokesperson for Jaulie. It is very hard having to differentiate between activist, student, woman, teacher, so forth. It is very hard because usually all those things blend under this one identity.

What does it mean to be black and female at St. Joe’s?

Ask any black woman that is out in the world as it is, it is just double the s—, double the nonsense. In one capacity, you are dealing with the racist stuff, and on top of that, even if it is not students or teachers trying to be directly racist, there are also microaggressions.  There is a stereotype of what a black woman should be, what she should look like, how she should act. When you act outside of what they think it is like, [there is] something wrong. It just makes you different, and because of that difference, you have to make a decision—is this difference going to push me to be more successful, or is this difference going to make me crawl within myself? How am I going to use this difference to the best of my ability, and not only infiltrate the areas that they don’t want me in, but also making my experience better as a college student.

Has the racial slur incident that happened last semester changed your attitude about St. Joe’s?

That was one of the biggest reasons I didn’t want to come here, even before the incident because it didn’t happen yet. It was just like, I know that is going to happen, but that is not the reason why I am here.  St. Joe’s has a beautiful way of locking minority students here, because you get a great big bag of money which is a big deal, especially [for] someone like me, whose parents did not go to college. My family has been on welfare my whole life, so I had to go where the money was, otherwise I wouldn’t go anywhere. It was the money that got me here. I genuinely do like the education program and a lot of the faculty members that I have interacted with on campus are actually very nice amazing people. Very inclusive, very socially aware, regardless of race, gender, age and so on. Not all of them, but a lot of them are. But I knew 2018 in May, before I turned in my deposit, there is going to be some s—. I just have to do it. I think a lot of black students feel like this because you feel like your whole family is depending on you and this generation, because they didn’t get to do it. It is a lot of responsibility because I have to do it, but I have to deal with all of this on top of being a college student which is already stressful in itself.

What should St. Joe’s be doing to help make the campus a more welcoming environment for students of color?

They have a great way of sucking the minorities in, but it is keeping the minorities here that is an issue. I think it is forcing the majority of the white population to confront their privilege. I see a lot of professors doing this, in the course content and how they present information in class. There does have to be a change in policy and we need people of color on the board. We need people who are working directly with the president, who are not white or male. Not just black people, but hispanic people, gay people, people with disabilities and so forth. We need diverse areas in the administration, because I think it starts top down. I feel like racism is an idea, it is a system, and it is not something that can be very easily taken away. There are going to be more racist incidents on campus. The biggest thing is that when these racist incidents happen, there should be a level of learning and then there should be retribution. [If the administration] had taken the right actions from the jump, then I would have been telling my friends from high school come to St. Joe’s. Why would I recommend that any minority come to this school? I haven’t. To my friends still in high school asking if they should come to St. Joe’s, I say it’s racist don’t come here. If the programs for my major had not been good, and if they have not given me scholarship money I would not be here. The administration is supposed to reflect these so called Jesuit ideals. We need to reflect that they really do care about us as people first. All the black people should not just be lunch people and janitorial staff.

How does being a commuter student affect your experience at St. Joe’s?

Commuter students’ voices aren’t really heard on campus. Again, it is like belonging to yet another sub group, another minority. It is very hard, for me specifically, to be involved, because I have a job, I have other responsibilities. I don’t drive, so I can’t be here too late because I don’t want to keep paying for Lyfts back and forth. I have to catch the bus, and I don’t like catching the bus at 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night, because this is West Philly. For me, and other commuter students, another thing that I also run into just [a lack of] general education about things like meal plans. I had no education on [meal plans,] which is why I ask my friends for their swipes because I don’t have one. I believe [Student Senate] brought on a commuter senator and a commuter senator at large. It is a step in the right direction. I don’t drive, but I have heard from a lot of people that are commuter students that the parking lot situation here is awful. I heard it is horrible, and when I do learn how to drive, I don’t want to run into any issues.    

Anything else you would like to say that we  haven’t covered?

Every white student on this campus, white teacher, white administrator, you need to utilize your privilege for the greater good. All the black students can get together and say hey we need freedom now, but we also need allies as well to help that cause. It shows you really care. We are not going to be at St. Joe’s forever. We are going to be out in our various companies, in our various fields, doing a lot of amazing things. You not only need to utilize your privilege here, but also in other capacities. You go to a workplace and you see that there is only one person there who is very different from everyone else, you need to go outside of yourself to make them feel welcome. I think that is the biggest thing that a lot of white people don’t know how we feel to just be one in a group, because they are so used to being a part of the dominant group.

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