Opinion: Respect exclusive places for BIPOC students

From a Brown girl who’s fed up

Moving 700 miles away from home to move up to Humboldt was one of the most intimidating decisions I have ever made. Once I got to this school, I really wanted to find groups or organizations that I could connect with, as a queer woman of color. Now as I am entering my third year, I am reflecting on my own experiences navigating these spaces.

It is honestly already overwhelming to be in classes where I am overlooked as a Brown woman, or where I constantly feel the need to step on eggshells around my white peers. So when I seek out these safe spaces, I am purposefully looking for places where I can connect with other students of color; places in which I can simply exist without the pressure of assimilating to Eurocentric white standards.

I wonder, why do on-campus organizations, created with BIPOC students in mind, feel the need to be inclusive to people outside of these marginalized communities? For an institution who is supposedly so supportive of “decolonization,” they are still actively centering white students for fear of being reprimanded for the false notion of “reverse racism.” And for the record, no you cannot be racist to white people.

It is the responsibility of faculty on this campus to make sure that these spaces are safe for the people they’re supposed to serve.

I don’t find it necessary for white students to enter these spaces, even on the premise of trying to educate themselves. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of BIPOC to educate you on social justice topics. Students of color shouldn’t have to lay out their traumas or personal experiences for white people to be able to learn. If you really want to make an effort to educate yourself as a white person, I urge you to take NAS or CRGS classes. Also, realize that learning is a continuous process, it takes time and energy to unlearn racist ideologies; learn to unlearn. Higher education is structured for white people to succeed, often leaving students of color to fend for themselves. This is why it is especially important to acknowledge that these safe spaces for BIPOC students are meant to provide resources that have historically not been available to us. So when white people come into these organizations to take up space and resources, it defeats the purpose of them being created.

I implore others to critically think about your own positionality in relation to systems of power, recognize your own privileges regarding race, gender, sexuality, positions of power, etc. As a white person, part of being an ally and of being actively anti-racist is recognizing the space you take up.

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