BY TOLU EKISOLA | Guest Contributor | On January, 31, 2016, while working in the Richard Griggs dorms on campus, I noticed something written inside the Griggs, P/Q elevator.
I rode the elevator up five floors, staring at the word as I fought with myself about what to do. I was shocked and embarrassed. I couldn’t believe that someone had taken the time out of their day to so crudely remind me that in the eyes of society I am deemed lesser-than because of the color of my skin. I settled first with taking a picture to keep as evidence in case another incident like this were to occur.
But, why let something else happen before I say something? So, I posted the picture onto the UMD Overheard Facebook page. If you haven’t guessed it yet, the word that took me so far aback starts with an ‘N’ and rhymes with digger.
What shocked, disappointed and persuaded me finally to write this article were the handful of people who tried to argue with the validity of my frustration. The few men thought that I was being oversensitive and expressed their need for me to distinguish child’s play from real life racism.
In not so many words, they wanted me to get over it.
My momma raised me right: to manifest a strong enough sense of self to speak out against injustice, even if they are just “barely legible words” on the inside of a dorm elevator.
As a woman of color on this campus, I am the minority. Meaning that I not only have to bar myself from the known sexual violence that occurs regularly on college campuses (see: Return of Kings and every women's bathroom’s designated ‘how to avoid being a victim’ rape poster --a topic for another day), but also from fear of racial discrimination and assault as well.
That word held a message that, to me, projected loud and clear. It is the idea that whoever wrote it was comfortable enough in the fact that they could write it without repercussion. Would they have said that word in public? Would they say it to my face?
These are the discussions we need to have. They must be in person, face to face. I say it is okay to ask questions. People of color should be okay with being asked the tough questions because it’s necessary for all of us to gain a new perspective.
Stubborn lack of knowledge is what causes incidents like this. Ignorance. Ignoring these incidents, pretending like they don’t exist, that gets us nowhere. However, I will say everyone is responsible to understand that if you know better, do better. And I know we want to be better, Bulldogs. We can be better.
*The story has been edited to remove reference to a student organization.