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Since you didn’t want to hear about race at the town hall, read about it.

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Editor's Note: This opinion contains the use of racial slurs as part of quotes that relate to events that occured on Emporia State’s campus. 

The Associated Student Government held a town hall meeting today to address the cuts they’re proposing to students groups on campus and to address a matter with the Black Student Union in which a black undergraduate student was forced to listen as a white male professor in a place of power repeatedly used the N-word in class. 

As a white female student on this campus, I was outraged by this event.

As a white female student, I cannot even pretend to know the trauma that comes from this incident. I cannot imagine, nor would I attempt to imagine or articulate, what it must feel like to be a person of color on this campus or a woman of color on this campus and to be treated with such little regard.

However, I was further disheartened by the fact that as soon as ASG switched gears from talking about the cuts to talking about the issue of race and racist incidents occurring on this campus today, nearly 75 percent of the students attending walked out. 

It was extremely disheartening that people left and it was very telling as to what students on this campus care about, because it is likely that the people who needed to be in the room most, to hear about the experience of marginalized groups on this campus, were the ones who left. 

In this opinion, I would like to recognize my privilege and I don’t want to use my white voice to interpret the very important words that these students had to say. Instead, I want to use my platform to give space to those voices that people on this campus don’t listen to. I hope you’ll read the following quotes from marginalized voices that spoke during the town hall, and consider them with the utmost seriousness.

“What is important to understand is that when we are outlining that there are different ways in which that people are received by these spaces, it’s not just a question of recognizing that those things can happen, producing unproductive empathy, and then never doing anything about it. It’s about making sure that when a professor stands up and starts reading off a poem that says the word ‘Nigger’ four different times, somebody in that class who is not black, should say something and stop them from continuing to read the poem. The burden shouldn’t have to be on the black students everytime we talk about slavery. Everytime we talk about anything black, we have to speak up and become the token person that has to resist the thing that’s happening to them. The burden should also be on everyone else in the room to make sure that that kind of thing doesn’t happen and that black people doesn’t always have to take care of themselves, because we’re always made to take care of you all.” 

                    -Arriq Singleton, junior interdisciplinary studies 

and political science major

“Emporia State has gotten better...but if I’m being completely and totally honest, I would have to say it’s not just because we have a university, diversity and inclusion alliance, just because we have some abstract, obscure plan for diversity and inclusion, just because we have a Goal 5, until those things are tangible, until marginalized people can grasp those things and show them to their teachers, show them to staff and say ‘These are the things that we all have to abide by,’ I am not protected on this campus. I don’t get the same amount of safety, I don’t get to go to class and know that I’m included, I don’t get to go to class and know that my history will be appropriately talked about, I don’t get to go to class and see faculty that look like me and I definitely don’t get to go to class and see a lot of people that look like me.” 

                    -Kayla Gilmore, president of Black Student Union 

and senior political science major

“I just want to speak to the fact that during Black History Month, when we have a plethora of events that we put on to celebrate Black History Month, we have a very little turnout, but during anything else...How many of us can trace our roots back to being Irish? Not many of us. Not many of us can, but everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s Day and that doesn’t go for each individual, that goes for offices as well. When you walk into an office during March when St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, there is green everywhere. Not once during Black History Month, other than in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion do you see anything about Black History Month. There’s no Madam C.J. Walker on the wall, there’s no MLK, there’s no Malcolm X. There’s just no appreciation all together.”

                    -Miquie Bowie, senior chemistry major

“Being on this campus, I’ve heard things happen all the time and I know that some of those people who speak this ignorant, stupid stuff are tied to everyone in here. So if you don’t come to the events, if you don’t do any of that, if you hear it, even if you’re at your practices, your sororities, or any other club thing, just speak up on it. Being a bystander is saying that you agree to the nonsense.”

                    -Taylor Lee, junior sociology major

“When going to debate tournaments, you have multiple debate tournaments this year where cops have been called on black students for expressing their ideas and sharing their research. We know that that in itself is a microcosm for what can happen to us any time we’re in class. Anytime we are in any particular space, we can be labeled and isolated as a threat and then set to be neutralized. Its like, I know that when I’m sitting in class that the next thing that comes out of my mouth, I better make sure that I’m very careful about how I put it and how it lands and how everybody takes it and that is a reality that keeps the room spinning for me everywhere I go. Which means, not only is it a question of if something happens to me right now, or do I have a particular incident that I can isolate, it’s about the way that this entire thing is structured where it’s always pointing me at the door when I start talking because it doesn’t want me to be there the way that I want to be there.”

                    -Arriq Singleton, junior interdisciplinary studies 

and political science major

    “It happens everyday that we’re here. I just left a class before this where we were speaking about police brutality and this student said that black people deserve to get shot. He was pretty much saying that ‘If I were a cop, I would be scared too, because they were black.’ I can’t speak up as much in my classes because I am black and if I go off, then I’m just black. I’m just a black person going off. But when we’ve got all these people in this class and nobody is saying anything, but you know me, I’m hungry so I’m saying something...Just say something because being a bystander is so much worse and it happens all the time.”

                    -Taylor Lee, junior sociology major

As Gilmore finished the meeting by saying, “You can’t agree or disagree with someone’s identity.” 

And Gilmore is right. 

We, as the students of Emporia State's campus, need to be there for our marginalized groups. We have an obligation to show up and speak out. 

Marginalized students deserve our support and we have to help carry the load. We can’t put all the changes that need to be made on this campus on them. 

It’s time for us to step up.

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Uninformed, emotional response based on lazy reporting or search for facts.

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