Featured Image Credit: Student protestors at the University of Missouri, November 9, 2015 (Michael B. Thomas/Getty)
Feature written by Quan P. (Founder of BLACKAMAZING)
Fifty-six years ago, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges walked into an all-white school for her first day, where she was met by an angry group of protestors. Ruby, who was just a child, did not know what was going on. On that day, she became the first black child to attend an all-white public elementary school in the South. As noted by Bio, the mobs were so violent that she had to be escorted to class by her mother and U.S. marshals.
“Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. I really didn’t realize until I got into the school that something else was going on. Angry parents at that point rushed in and took their kids out of school.” – Ruby Brides, PBS NewsHour
Lets fast forward to November 9th, 2016, a day after the election. Natasha Nkhama posted a video on Facebook describing an incident that took place at Baylor University in Texas. In the video, Nkhama said that while she was on her way to class, a guy purposely bumped into her and shoved her on the sidewalk.
“He said, ‘No ni*gers allowed on the sidewalk,’…I was just shocked, like I had no words.” Nkhama said. A guy then approached him saying “Dude what are you doing? That’s not cool.”
According to Nkhama, the guy that pushed her responded to him and said: “Dude, like what…I’m just trying to make America great again.” Two days later, over 300 students showed up to escort her to class and the hashtag #IWalkWithNatasha went viral.
Nearly 300 students showed up to escort Baylor University student Natasha Nkhama to class on Wednesday after she reported being pushed and… pic.twitter.com/0mzZkuBlU9
— a phenomenal tool to (@mytop10videos) November 12, 2016
Being black in America lately has been an out of body experience for me. I think that it started when black deaths started to go viral…When I heard the audio of Trayvon’s last phone call…when I saw Laquan McDonald getting shot 16 times…when I saw Eric Garner laying face down on the sidewalk while in a chokehold saying “I can’t breathe.”
I remember waking up in the afternoon to a group of students yelling “hands up! dont shoot!” I was living on campus at a predominantly white school and despite living in the hills, I heard them loud and clear. Then I realized something:
The only difference between the boys and men that have lost their lives at the hands of police and I was location and time.
After joining the group of students from Black Student Union marching, it became clear that it was more than a statement about police brutality — we were letting everyone know that we deserved to feel safe on campus. I remember seeing students staring in confusion and laughing at us as we stood frozen in silence with our mouths taped.
The immediate rush of feelings on election day and when the president elect was announced took me back to the day after the march a year ago. The experience opened my eyes to the ugliness underneath the mask.
The media only shows the overly obnoxious racist people but in many cases, they’re the ones that you shake hands with. The ones in your dorm. Your professor. Your significant other. Your friends. Your co-workers and your boss.
What happens to the safety of black students now, especially those on predominantly white campuses?
When I attended one, our Black Student Union was criticized for being “racist” although we welcomed everyone to our meetings. Black History Month was also slammed for being “racist” but it was an exciting time to celebrate our culture and connect with other students.
There were times when students reported racist, threatening encounters to the dean and administration and were ignored.
BSU was our safe space — a place to share things that only we go through. It was a place where we could express our pain without being silenced and ridiculed. It was a room with positive images all around us and people that we can relate to. Students are already dealing with a lot of things like intense workloads and being in an unfamiliar town.
Ruby Bridges and Natasha Nkhama weren’t doing anything wrong — they were just black students on their way to class.
Now that the masks are off, do safe spaces still exist on college campuses?