‘We Will Be Heard and Understood’

By Angel Poole, President of Black Students United

As a student leader on campus of Black Students United (BSU), I feel it is my obligation to help provide a social, educational, and a cultural setting that will serve to enrich and enhance the collegiate experience of Black students and other underrepresented students, faculty, and staff at The University of Akron. The headline “F*ck racism, they chanted” for an article on a rally organized by the group I am part of goes against that mission. Whereas the article itself was a close-to-fair representation, the headline itself was not. It characterized BSU and the various students who came out to support the rally as violent and angry.  

We put together the event to educate each other and people at the university about challenges we face as students of color. We wanted to stand in solidarity with students at Mizzou and other predominantly white institutions who seek more inclusive environments that firmly address acts of racism. Over a hundred students of different races and backgrounds came out to support this vision. WE chanted about wanting stronger retention rates. WE chanted about wanting more faculty support. WE chanted about unity amongst our people. At the end of her speech, a student repeated “f*ck racism,” and had the crowd follow along with her. This, however, was not one of BSU’s planned or endorsed chants. It was a moment part of many that day. There were prayers, speeches, impassioned words, poetry, and a crowd of students feeling uplifted and supported by each other and by those who walked by and had positive things to say.  So, I speak on behalf of many of the black students when I say we feel the Buchtelites use of the “‘F*ck racism’ they chanted” headline in last Tuesday’s issue is a gross misrepresentation of not only what happened that day but also what we are aiming to do, which is to drum up support for black students on campus and bridge the gaps that sometimes separate students of color from our white classmates.

The repercussions of running this particular article with the chosen headline are deeply significant to us. By being portrayed as the stereotypical “angry black person,” we are further threatened to be dismissed by people who we would like to understand our cause. This is a point black students at Mizzou were making in not wanting the media to cover their protests. They had seen too often how stories about the black community portrayed individuals in stereotypical and painful ways, in ways that took power away from what the people in those stories wanted to be conveyed about their stories. Students on campus feel something similar has been done to us, even if unintentionally. The question we have is why were we, and our event, portrayed that way…through such an incendiary headline? Some of us feel betrayed and alienated as a result of its use. We are reminded of our “difference” and what makes us feel rejected, particularly considering how similar protest and rally events were covered by The Buchtelites in contrast to ours.

BSU is still committed to building up black students on campus through providing social and educational support. The hope we had for that rally still remains. It is also our hope that people who would otherwise write us off will consider more carefully our mission and see more clearly just who we are. We, too, are The University of Akron. We will not settle for being portrayed as a sensational headline.