Safiya Mohamed reports:
Early last week flyers with racist language were put up on the University of St. Thomas campus in St. Paul. The flyer targeted Native Americans and included a link to a white nationalist website. In response to this, the university and students hosted rallies and listening sessions.
Alex Hernandez-Siegel is the Director of Student Diversity & Inclusion Services at the university. He said that, while the administration’s response was effective, he wants St. Thomas to better support its BIPOC students by creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.
“We need to be more proactive in how we work every single day with our students, especially our students of color, so that they feel at home and they feel protected, they feel heard,” said Hernandez-Siegel.
Many St. Thomas students said they’re processing the incident and reflecting on their experiences as students of color in a white-dominant space.
“I feel confused. I feel kind of just numb to it because, you know, these incidents happen every single year, and we always get like, oh we stand with you like from the institution,” said sophomore Kathryn Nguyen.
Students of color on predominantly white college campuses often struggle to find acceptance and community. Ilhan Abdulkadir, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, said she is sometimes the only person of color in her classes.
“It kind of feels like a science experiment at that point,” she said, “because everyone’s just looking at you for answers and they want to learn from you, but at the same time I’m a student, I should be learning, I shouldn’t be the person that’s being learned from.”
Abdulkadir believes universities can better support BIPOC students by giving them the space to heal from racist incidents and working quickly to address their concerns.
Photo Credit: Maria Ambrose
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