April 17, 2016– Claire Edwards is an Asian American student attending Trinity Christian College, and dealt with a stereotype as she was told multiple times, “She does not look like a Claire Edwards”. She then turned to social media. After the campus read what she had to say online, she started a mini-movement. Her movement is #IAmAPerson, which is when she walks around campus carrying her sign as seen in the picture above. The purpose is to educate and break stereotypical barriers on campus. I attend as well Trinity Christian College and this is my second year yet, I am debating if I should transfer or educate. Claire has inspired me even more to educate. She has dealt with the same stuff that most of us as minorities have dealt with like — depression from being treated so poorly at a Predominantly White Institution. Claire is doing what most of us are trying to do as minorities, which is educate people on the damage they do to us when they stereotype, when they become ignorant to what we are going through, and when we do not thrive from White privilege, but majority of Caucasians do. I cannot say every Caucasian is the same or generalize them, because I have met some awesome people at Trinity but that has only been a very small part of my college experience. I cannot say that every minority’s experience is the same or that every Black person’s story is the same, but I can share mine once again. Social media and my blog gives me a voice I do not feel that is being heard at my college.
As an African American young woman I want to touch on the topics of the Black lives matter movement , the still separate but equal school system, my experience as a young black woman, and how we can move forward.
Growing Up in A “Separate but Equal” Society
Growing up on the West side of Chicago I was never around any Caucasian students. Most of the neighborhoods were either predominantly Black or Hispanic, or a mix between the two. No, there were not any Asians, Caucasians or Indians on my block or in my “hood”. I can recall times when people would shoot right outside my window or the time three high school black boys stood in our hallway downstairs and got high. It was really only by our faith in God that my family and I faced these hard times. For some reason, I thought college was “my way out”. That it would become a place where I would finally be accepted. Yet, when I got there I quickly learned that that would not be the case. I came to college only to face a new set of problems–problems I never really thought about at first. I quickly was reminded that I was Black or African American. My school never let me forget that, and every corner I turned I saw another Dutch student. I did not mind, and I thought well I attend a Christian college so I will be fine, but I was not. Just like Claire Edwards multiple people have had said stereotypical things to me. I have been asked multiple times “why are Black people so loud?” I have been stared at every time I walked into class as the only Black student. No one really wanted to work with me in any of my classes. So when you look at someone coming from a big city or state like California or Chicago coming to a small liberal arts predominantly white institution then you will see why everything is so different to me.
This brings up the point as to how segregated Chicago still is. I remember my mother (and she still does) having to drive us to Schaumburg, Oak Park (which is really close to Austin), and Oak Brook just to make sure we had a decent childhood. I currently live in Austin which is one Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Yet, I find it funny how I can drive into Oak Park in like 5-10 minutes and notice a HUGE difference. I notice that the police are watching the elementary kids play outside for recess. I notice that the neighborhood has better restaurants and better playgrounds for kids to play in. I get that this all comes from their parent’s taxes, but it is not fair to the children like me growing up. My mom did her best to make sure we had a great childhood growing up. She drove way out of our neighborhood just so we could play, and have fun. This is not right for the children who get shot, because all they were doing was playing on their neighborhood block because the park was damaged.
The U.S News says that even though it has been at least 60 years after Brown v. Board our school system is still segregated. Which plays into why we face so many hardships when integrated. Just like me most students at my school who are Caucasian have never been in class with a black student; except maybe one. U.S News also says that, Black parents do not expect their black children to receive the same amount of education as white students. According to the U.S News, “this leads to less positive attitudes about school, less parent communication about school, and fewer out of school experiences”. This shows that there is already a challenge as a minority, specifically as an African American, to even make it to college. As a college student I knew that these were problems that would block me, but honestly I thought that I would feel more accepted and even loved in a friendly manner, because I attend a Christian College. I knew that Chicago, being one of the most segregated cities in the nation, would not really prepare me for a predominantly white institution, but I never knew that college would be about race all the time. It seems like no matter what I do my race is somehow always involved. Whether it is how people treat me in my classes to the dating realm.
Christianity, Black Lives Matter, and #SayHerName
One of the things I loved about Trinity as a young 18 year old was actually that it was a Christian college. I thought that it would keep me in my faith (it did), and the people would be more accepting as I have said before yet, I have found that to not always be the case. Yes, it did keep me in my faith, but it seems like the people here treat me just like the world would. Some of my friends who went to bigger universities said that people at secular universities seem nicer than here. I read an article last year about Christian children being meaner than secular children. The article was in the The Guardian it was actually titled, “Religious Children Are Meaner Than Their Secular Counterparts, Study Finds” . The article talks about religious beliefs having a negative effect on the child’s altruistic ability. I love God and I have been in the church all my life, so I am not saying I am against God or anyone’s god, but I am against sin. This article from The Guardian even shows fact that the two largest religions in the world which are Christianity and Islam were less altruistic than children from secular homes. This was very interesting to me because it reminded me of the things I saw on my Christian campus. How everyone loves to serve off campus, but when they are here and they see minorities they are staring, asking stereotypical questions, and saying all lives matter. I always thought it was ironic how the same people that go on trips to Africa and so serve trips were the same people who turned their backs on the people here at school. Then I had to realize that the people who hated Jesus the most were not secular people, but religious people.
This led to many people on campus writing #alllivesmatter under posts made by black students on Yik Yak. Many Christian Caucasian students do not get that, yes God did make us all and we are all one, but we are just trying to shed light on the fact that many African American males have been killed by police in the past 2 years. It becomes frustrating when my friends and I try to educate people online yet they still say that they feel “uncomfortable”. When in all actuality this is just another excuse to not become educated on culture and race. In an article from the Huffington Post, titled “When Christians Won’t Say, #BlackLivesMatter,” the author talks about how this demeans the meaning of #BlackLivesMatter. The author explicitly says, “However, #AllLivesMatter is little more than a cruel and subtle way of sweeping the deprecation of black lives under the rug. #AllLivesMatter is an insidious fiction that suppresses historical fact and contemporary circumstances in order to uphold a deadly system of racial oppression”. No one is saying that God did not make all of us equal or that all of our lives do not matter. We are just trying to seek out justice for our people.
Claire’s story reminded me of Sandra Bland’s story. They both are similar in the sense that they touch on how women and minorities have to face stereotypes. Although, I am not Asian American and cannot tell Claire’s story, because each student has their own unique story. What I can do is share an article written by another Asian American student. In the article “I Am Asian American”, there is a section that talks about invisibility among Asian students in school. It brings up stereotypes and derogatory names like F.O.B (which means fresh off the boat). This can even connect to all other minority groups. Just as in the media Asians are often viewed as geeks, martial arts instructors, and speaking poor english. These are the issues and stereotypes that we need to break. Not only at my college, but also nationwide. Just like the stereotype of the “angry black woman”, which is what Sandra Bland was associated with. According to Women in The World, most African American women will be looked at as “combative” which in some ways gives people a false sense of validation to be aggressive with them. That plays into the stereotype of “the angry black woman”. No matter what, we need to educate the majority and let them know why saying things like “F.O.B” or “the angry black woman” strips us as minorities of our voices.
Should We “Look Like Our Names”?
When Claire Edwards was repeatedly told she “did not look like a Claire Edwards” that reminded me how some employers cannot get jobs, because of their non-white sounding names. That even reminds me of how young African American males with dreads are pulled over way more than a “hipster cool” Caucasian guys with dreads. I am not saying anything is wrong with people sharing hairstyles, but the problem is how society looks at the two.This also brings up the issue of hiring people based on their names. Even when you have a college degree you might still have to “whiten” your resume, as the New York Times would say, just to get a job. According to CBS News, Cambridge-based National Bureau of Economic Research , “After responding to 1,300 classified ads with dummy resumes, the authors found black-sounding names were 50 percent less likely to get a callback than white-sounding names with comparable resumes.” This all means that when names sound a certain way from certain people it determines if someone will get a job or not. Are we defined by our names? It seems as though society says we are. What does a Claire look like? What does a La’Keisha look like? A Deshawn? A Kevin? I have never been told I do not look like a Makayla, because all types of girls have that name. Still being told you don’t look like something is like stripping you of your God given identity. Names are something our parents give us because they want to help define us as people. I do not think we should be defined by our names.
The best thing we can do is start somewhere which I think is social media because it gives you a voice and you do not have to wait for anyone’s approval. Try to seek out a minority as an individual not an generalized group of people. Try to take this as a chance to get to know other cultures, That way you don’t culturally appropriate, but grow as a person. Educate teachers and professors on the backgrounds of students, because not everyone has come from the same background. As a Christian I would say try to let God to manifest in you more. God really did make us all out of His image and equal. So honestly, we are a fallen creation and this is all due to our own sinful nature. We are so caught up on socioeconomic status, money, and living a selfish life that we forget that others want a good life as well. I am praying for my college and the nation, but I will also be speaking out against any injustice I see. I like to think of myself as a “blogging Langston Hughes”, because my writing gives me a voice and my people a voice. Thank you.