Am I Still Black If…

Geoff Diver

Millikin’s Black Student Union, Brothers Moving Forward, Sister Circle, and African Student Organization put on an event on September 11th. The purpose of the event was to educate and relieve any stereotypes that students may have with students who identify as Black or African and those who lead organizations on campus that focus on the Black and African community.

JaCarla Anderson, Black Student Union president, talked about how “there are some students that have mentioned that they thought the Black Student Union is only for black students. The focus is for the black campus community, but we want people to be in the room to hear conversations that involve the black community. Our events are opportunities to learn more about different cultures.”

The event was called Am I Still Black if…, and the night started off by asking audience members to stand up if they related to any of the prompts.

One of the prompts included standing up if somebody has touched your hair without permission or asked if that is your real hair. Aryia Hawkins, a Millikin student spoke about the prompt and told the story of a boss who once pet her hair.

“It made me feel as if I was an animal or a toy,” Hawkins said.

The organization leaders continued with the prompts sparking conversations about their experiences as people of color. They even talked about word choice; one student preferred the term “bi-racial” over “mixed” because it makes her feel like a breed of dogs.

One of the most famous prompts of the night was when students were asked to stand up if they have ever felt bad about being black.

“I had always been the only black person in the room,” Millikin student Deja Simon said.

Simon even went as far to say, “I didn’t like my hair for the longest time,” and that she would straighten her hair before work or school.

Many other students agreed and talked about how they would conform to fit in with white students in their high schools. For some students, such as Deja Simon, college was the first time they had been around a large group of black students.

One of the other prompts people most related too was standing up if you have been the token black friend.  President of the Latin American Student Organization, Rubi Rodriguez said “I am not your token, I am my own trophy,” which was followed by a round of applause from her peers.

It was also discussed how people of color are being used as a defensive mechanism for white peers, who would use their friendship as a reason for “not being racist.”

Another topic that isn’t addressed enough is the use of racial slurs. Students spoke about their experiences with these words being used by white peers and they expressed their frustration. Something that is overlooked but commonly known is if your sentence starts with “I’m not racist but…” then you’re more than likely about to say something racist.

“I’m pleased with the turn out of the event,” JaCarla Anderson said. “However, we wished for a more diverse crowd because it is important that those who do not identify as Black or African hear the feedback and the feelings that students of color have.”

Black Student Union encourages students who aren’t a part of their organization to come to the several events they put on throughout the school year.

Events to look forward to are BSU Week, which takes place later this fall, and Ebony Ball in the spring.  In the past, the events were primarily attended by “black and brown students” but BSU president JaCarla Anderson hopes to see an increase in the number of white students attend BSU events.