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I, Too, Am A Saint: Protest Backlash

“After last year’s protest some people are scared of you and just don’t like you…you’re kind of blacklisted.”

As someone who prides themselves on the motto, “haters gonna hate” I strive hard not to let the words of others define me. Whoever does? Especially when it is someone that does not know or does not take the opportunity to know you! I have always been comforted at the thought that I was very confident in myself and refused to let minimal, petty things define my character.

Yet, at that very moment when a fellow peer told me this, I could not help but let it consume my mind and let it drain me emotionally. Why should I be shunned for using my voice to highlight the injustices I face on these 17 acres and beyond?

I first learned and experienced the ugly side of being a black girl once I began my college career. During my first week, I attended an off-campus party in good old Allston. Within an hour of being there, a very intoxicated male student leaned over to me, stared me dead in the eye and asked, “If I called you a monkey, would it offend you?”

I stood there shocked and confused. My body and mind were frozen as I tried to formulate a reaction but I could not. He laughed at my lack of a response and proceeded into the herd of intoxicated students.

There I stood, reminded of my blackness. Slapped in the face with blatant racism and insensitivity.

Before moving into a new space filled with white kids, I never had to feel that angry side, that overly self-conscious side of being a black girl: that side that feels weird about explaining why my hair appointment takes most of my day, that side that feels misunderstood and stupid when it becomes difficult for me to not use certain slang in seminar, and that side that needed to protest the night the grand jury decided to not indict Darren Wilson (if not for change, then for my own psychological well-being).

The struggle that I face at a predominately white institution definitely isn’t the struggle of every black girl who starts college at a PWI (Editors note: Predominately White Institution), but it sure was mine! While already enduring the struggles of transitioning into an adulthood, this issue unexpectedly spiraled into my life with no warning and I was terrified.

I noticed that “friends” I had initially in my freshman year distanced themselves from me following last year’s protest. Faculty and staff who I frequently communicated with could no longer look me in the eye. At first, I thought I was parodied and overthinking things but that comment confirmed my suspicions.

Some students were scared of me and of comments I made—whether on social media platforms or campus wide discussions—and because of that they chose not to like me and ignore me.

Reconnecting with other black students and students of color who were involved in last year’s protest, they shared similar sentiments of the loss of friendships and social out casting by students, staff, and/or faculty.

  • Junior, Emmanuel College Dance Team Caption and Admissions Ambassador, Gabriela Taveras, experienced the loss of friendships following the protest, “I have absolutely lost friendships…I’ve noticed that while it was acceptable for me to complain about my classes or boys, it was unacceptable for me to talk about the racist comments I’ve received or the uncomfortable situations I have been in both on and off campus.”
  • Senior, Crystal Njoku believes the protest and conversation on race exposed her, to her friends true sentiments on race, “Unfortunately, people were not receptive to me being vocal on such a controversial issue that is considered taboo. To my surprise, some of them held views that were closed-minded and to an extent, anti-black.

Some black students shared sentiments of no longer feeling welcomed or comfortable at Emmanuel College.

  • Adebukola Ajao ‘16, former President of the Black Student Union, says the lack of empathy from fellow peers and staff has affected her both emotionally and physically, “Every morning I dread coming to campus. The fact that I’ve gotten up every morning and come to a place that treats me like crap and is not for me is the hardest thing I’ve ever been asked to do.”
  • Laurie Boyd ‘16, member in 1804 Society and Student Commissioner on the Presidents Commission on Diversity and Inclusivity says, “Sometimes I do not feel comfortable on campus or welcomed because of people who lack empathy on the matter.”

As much as I would love to Nicki Minaj former friends and staff with a, “Heard you been talking a lot of sh*t in the press, what’s good?!

I can’t. It would serve no purpose.

I am happy that those who chose to remove themselves from my life did.

I am black. I am unapologetically black. I will advocate for young, unarmed men and women of color killed at the hands of those meant to protect them; I will use my voice to highlight the social injustices that take place in the black community. I will continue to push the administration of Emmanuel College to listen to the needs and demands of black students and students of color. I will advocate and scream it at the highest mountain, BLACK LIVES MATTER.

If someone refuses to accept and learn of my identity and/or accept and acknowledge the issues that are plaguing the black community, I do not want to be friends with you. If you are not willing to learn or enter these “uncomfortable” conversations you are contributing to the problem.

If I am making someone uncomfortable then I am doing my job.

-Ashley Jeannot ’17

Posted by on November 19, 2015. Filed under I Too Am A Saint. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.