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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

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

The future of racial diversity at St. Joe’s

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How microaggressions affect students of color in class

For many years now, it has been tragic and saddening to watch the news and see another black individual murdered, in many ways due to normative microaggressions, which are comments or actions that subtly express a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.

These kinds of comments and actions don’t simply happen on the news in these aggressive and violent ways. They happen on our own campus as well.

So let’s have a conversation.

Does it make sense for a racist encounter to be the last thing a black individual would want to go through in a place that they expect to call home for four years or more? The unwelcomed racial slur on two first year students’ dorm door last semester was not the first time an antagonistic act has been made towards people of color on campus.

Let’s be honest—situations like this one have been going on for years, but they have been swept under the rug so the face of the “diverse” St. Joe’s can remain intact. A couple of students on campus have shared their experiences with me, and I would like to bring their experiences to the forefront to shed more light on this issue.

One St. Joe’s student recently recalled a time when they approached a professor to ask a question, and the first words that the professor spoke as they rose their hands in a defensive manner was, “Don’t shoot!” This student was taken aback but was not surprised because they did not have high expectations for professors at St. Joe’s. The student further commented about the experience stating, “It was a public display of ignorance.”

ILLUSTRATION: OLIVIA HEISTERKAMP ’19/THE HAWK

Another student, in one of the most prestigious and challenging departments on campus, was repeatedly disrespected by a professor. The professor first mocked the student’s name and then made inappropriate comments about the student’s hair. This professor even ran their hands through the student’s afro without permission or warning. The student said, “It made me angry and upset.” While these were both microaggressions, the second experience was extremely shocking. Turning a blind eye to these situations or even refusing to approach these situations appropriately should not be condoned.

There are many students of diverse backgrounds who have shared comments about professors treating them differently than others or not being mindful about their word choice when speaking to students of color. Instances like these make it harder to be open with professors and receive all the help needed to be successful in our college careers and beyond.

Due to this sense of major discomfort, students are usually left with two choices: dropping the class to avoid the professor or continuing with the class but refusing to seek help from the professor when needed.

This should not be our fate as students of color on St. Joe’s campus; we should not be subjected to this kind of ultimatum.

So the important question is, where do we go from here?

There is a lot of work to be done, but we can start by having uncomfortable conversations. From an institutional level, professors, administrators and students should be required to participate in more diversity trainings on campus before and during the school year. This will help educate people about terms that should not be used towards minorities and how to use language in a way that neither disrespects nor hurts students.

On a personal level, remember to use your voice, your privilege and your influence to empower those who do not have these resources. When you witness a microaggression, do not be passive. Instead, speak up and shut it down. In this way, we can build up and strengthen our community so that it can be the diverse and safe St. Joe’s we expect it to be

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