Open Letter: What Racism and Discrimination look like at Loyola


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An Open Letter to the Students of Loyola University Maryland

The following is an open letter to the students of Loyola that has been submitted to The Greyhound by a student who wishes to be published anonymously

I am an ally. I am aware of the struggles many people of color and minorities face every single day. I am aware of the ignorance that surrounds these issues towards these communities. It is my responsibility, and it is the responsibility of the entire community, to be aware of these issues in hopes of ending them––to be your ally.

The following quotations are phrases I’ve heard and witnessed since being at Loyola my first semester as a first-year student.

“You’re pretty for a black girl.”

I am an ally.

“How’d you make your hair look like that? Can I touch it?”

I am an ally.

I, a white, heterosexual, male cannot cannot truly know what you experience, but I know it is my duty to step in when confronted with acts of racism and discrimination.

Not many are aware of what a microaggression is. Microaggressions are behaviors or statements that do not necessarily reflect malicious intent, but which nevertheless can inflict insult or injury, according to Simba Runyowa, a writer for The Atlantic. I call it covert racism and discrimination. However, they do not merely pertain to ethnicity and race, as sexual orientation is often a target of microaggressions too.

Universities and high schools do not put nearly enough emphasis on microaggressions. This is a highly important issue that directly affects the learning environment in a negative way. I am frustrated that there is such a lack of awareness about these issues. You do not deserve to be alienated.

“Aren’t Asians supposed to be good at math?”

I am an ally.

“Why aren’t you good at basketball? You are black.”

I am an ally.

This is a call to action. The conversation needs to begin on a much more macro level: seminars, guest speakers, Messina outings and discussions, and education of diversity in order to prevent microaggressions needs to be incorporated into the classroom on a universal level. The commonplace retorts of “I didn’t know that was offensive” or “It was just a joke” can no longer be accepted. There are no more excuses.

The fact that Loyola requires students to take only one diversity-related course is evidence that not only do students need to be more aware, but so do the faculty. Diversity courses or themes should be implemented whenever possible, and not seen as a time-consuming requirement that distracts people from their majors.

Microaggressions are not an issue that people can say will solve itself, or that because “it doesn’t affect me, I don’t have to care.” People need to be educated socially, historically, and psychologically in order to be aware of the issue before trying to solve it. Microaggressions should matter to every person who cares about the equality of everyone.

Implementing more diversity themes in the classroom is a great avenue in contributing to much-needed change. A recent study by Northwestern University shows that the pressures associated with discrimination contribute to the achievement gap in schools. On average, white and Asian students earn a college-level credential at a rate about 20 percentage points higher than Hispanic and black students do, a new report shows. This isn’t a coincidence.

“Why are you always so emotional?”

I am your ally.

“You’re not really black.”

I am your ally.

When a black student is driven out of her room by her white roommate after she spent nearly two months  “spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons on her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the son doesn’t shine” according to her own boastful post — it has to be clear that enough is enough.

The perpetrator has been charged with a misdemeanor and possible hate crime charges. I cannot imagine what it was like for the victim to go through her daily routine, going through classes, knowing what was waiting for her back at her dorm. I am infuriated that in the year 2018, people are malevolent and racist to the point of forcing a roommate out of her own living space. I applaud her bravery and strength in surviving this ordeal.

But even though it received the national recognition it deserved, as well as the punishment it deserved, who can say this is the first time something of this cruel nature has occurred, or worse, who’s to say it won’t happen again?

“What country were you born in?”

I am your ally.

“What’s up n***a?”

I am your ally.

Yeah. The “n-word” is thrown around that easily. A word that stems from slavery that has weaved through the linguistic history of the 20th century with the sole purpose of inflicting hate, pain, and discrimination. A word that white people do not have the right to use because of its history, is tossed around in conversation, by white people, without hesitation! This is a microaggression. This is racist. This is wrong.

We are responsible for the well-being of fellow students at Loyola. We are the ones who make change. We are adults. And the same is true for the LGBTQ community. No longer can we allow this community to be marginalized.

“You’re a fa***t.”

I am your ally.

“I’m scared of gay people. They just make me uncomfortable.”

I am your ally.

Loyola must realize the effects these microaggressions have on students of color or other marginalized groups, especially the effects they have in the classroom. Being on the receiving end creates a negative classroom environment––students feel like they can’t participate and can’t be themselves. This ultimately prohibits learning from even occurring. And at a school where people pay tens of thousands of dollars for an education, this is simply not fair to them or their families.

“Wow! You’re so well spoken, I was really surprised.”

I am your ally.

The truth about microaggressions in an academic environment is that this is an issue that pervades high schools and universities across the country. A racial slur was written on the name tags of black students that were posted on the doors of dorms at the University of Michigan. Later, protests and a fight broke out in opposition to the university’s response to this and other incidents. At the University of Lousiville, fliers were posted that invited students to join a white nationalist group. Racist language and symbols were posted at least twice on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus. These are only three of the nine examples listed by Inside Higher Ed.

Want to know the crazy part? Not only did these events occur this past September, they all occurred in the same week.

Let that sink in.

How could something like this happen? It sickens me to think that this is the reality for many on college campuses. And these are just the events reported. Granted, as these actions were more overtly racist, they were easier to detect. And it is important to note that these examples don’t even count the microaggressions that occur on a daily basis.

This is the world we live in. Whether it be stemming from the university itself or the students that attend, or both, this is an issue that is present all over the country.

I am a white, privileged male from an affluent town that is 84 percent white. But I recognize that it is my duty to help end this systemic and deeply ingrained racism and discrimination in society. For those who share my background, and for those who don’t, you must recognize that by standing by and watching microaggressions occur, you become just as at fault as the person saying them.

We can no longer be bystanders. Our generation must be the one to bring serious change to the forefront of the public eye. We cannot stand by and watch the jokes be made and act like it’s “not my problem.” Worse, we cannot be the part of the narrative that perpetuates these microaggressions without even thinking twice.

As Loyola students. we have a responsibility to ensure the safety and security for our fellow greyhounds––for all those that feel alienated in our community.

If you see or hear people carrying out microaggressions, step in. Stop it. Tell them it is wrong and tell them why. I know it is a hard thing to do––stepping out of your comfort zone and correcting your friends, or even strangers is challenging, but think how much harder it is for those directly affected by microaggressions.

“Why do microaggressions even matter? It was just a joke! Everyone is so sensitive in the world. It’s not even racist.”

We are your allies. We are your friends.