Campus race issues in black and white


Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 12- Torn apart: A bulletin board addressing a primarily white student population in an on-campus residence hall about using privilege as a tool to actively fight racism was destroyed over night. Photos by Emily Carrigan.

by Emily Carrigan–

There’s an unfortunate truth about Virginia Tech that I don’t think everyone is willing to accept: the community is not doing enough to create an inclusive environment for underrepresented students.

As resident advisor, my halls have always been overwhelmingly white, a reflection of Virginia Tech’s entire population. I’ve had black residents talk to me about having people doubt that they made it here on merit, and feeling disheartened when they’re able to count on one hand the number of students who look like them on their hall, next to them in classes and even teaching them.

These sentiments are reinforced by numbers. Less than 4 percent of the undergraduate student population self-identifies as black or African American.

President Timothy Sands launched Inclusive VT in an effort to create a more inclusive and diverse student body. It seems to be making positive strides, as The Office of Undergraduate Admissions recently reported that this year’s applicant pool was its most diverse ever, with a 13 percent increase in underrepresented applicants from the previous year.

However, the university’s attempts to be inclusive are for nothing if students aren’t willing to support them.

In my residence hall, I attempted to engage students in a conversation about how they could use their white privilege to actively fight racism on a bulletin board for Black History Month.

It addressed what privilege is and asked them to consider how it can be used to stand up for black lives and rights.

It was only up for 12 days before I discovered it in shreds. This unfortunately added to the profile of a non-inclusive community that’s unwilling to learn. As I looked at the pieces, I thought about the hate I had for whoever did it.

But then I stopped myself. People bold enough to destroy an anti-racism bulletin board fill the world with enough hate, and I decided I would not allow them to make me hateful, too.

I smoothed the pieces and did my best to reassemble the board on the wall. I hung up signs inviting those who didn’t like, agree or understand the board to have a conversation with me about it, because we won’t make any progress as a community unless we meet the university halfway and engage in just that.