Many of the people I follow on social media are my classmates at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and the vast majority of them are posting about the Black Lives Matter movement right now. My peers have been sharing petitions to sign, places to donate, books to read, lawmakers to email, podcasts to listen to, pictures of protests, and list of black-owned businesses. I am really happy to see this material on my social media feed. But now, I am asking my followers and every student posting about the Black Lives Matter movement to put their money where their Instagram posts are and actually support students of color when they return to campus.
It is no secret that UNH lacks diversity. NH is the third whitest state in the country and over 80 percent of the UNH student population is white. Many of my fellow white classmates who are posting about the Black Lives Matter movement have complained about the lack of diversity at our school and say that they wish they were at a place with “more culture” like New York, Boston, or Eugene, Oregon. However, many of my white classmates who complain about these things fail to take advantage of the cultural resources and groups that are available at UNH.
There are many organizations on campus that work really hard to share their culture with others. A lot of the time they are ignored by the 80 plus percent and are only attended by people of color and their friends. It is offensive when white people complain about the lack of diversity at UNH and then don’t make any effort to engage in the diverse set of experiences and educational events that the people of color on campus have to offer.
College is probably the only time students will be exposed to these many resources and it is really disappointing that the majority fail to take advantage of them. Here are a few examples: The Diversity Support Coalition supports six student organizations (Black Student Union, Alliance, United Asian Coalition, Mosaico, Hillel, and the Native American Cultural Association). According to The Beauregard Center’s website (formally known as OMSA) these groups collaborate on “programs, events, and community building promoting diversity, social justice, equity, and inclusion” where “any UNH Student is welcome”. Delta Xi Phi is a multicultural sorority that recruits every semester. The Memorial Union Building (MUB) hosts talks and brings in nationally recognized speakers who discuss race, culture, and other social issues. The MUB also has an international education week and regular cultural connections talks where students share global stories. There are all these organizations and many others that I did not mention that host events throughout the year where students can educate themselves on the world outside of Durham, New Hampshire. But these events are blatantly ignored by the majority of the white student class.
The issue is not that these organizations do not promote their events. They advertise at literally every single table in the dining halls. They write their event in the corner of the whiteboard in almost every academic building. There are posters put up on bulletin boards throughout campus. RAs send texts to their whole floor of residents. Students are aware that these types of events are happening, the majority just choose to ignore them. They choose to stay in their own white bubble but somehow still complain about UNH’s diversity.
I am also not perfect and need to do a better job supporting these organizations myself. But I am hoping that you will join me in changing this. Read the Holloway Common fliers and add a few events you find interesting to your calendar to attend that month. Try and convince some of your friends to go with you. If you can’t find anyone to go to these events with you, still go. Be vulnerable and be open to learning new things. These events do not only allow you to educate yourself and become a better ally, but your attendance simply demonstrates to UNH and to these organizations that you care. It shows the university that students are interested in learning about people of color. High attendance means more funding for these organizations from UNH.
Right now, UNH students do not spend their week worrying about whether or not they will get into an event like the Black Student Union Fashion Show, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Carnival, or a MUB talk. These events are open to all. Instead, UNH students spend their week worried about whether or not they’re going to get into an exclusive party where white fraternity brothers and sorority sisters rap the N-Word.
Claiming that you don’t have the time to go to these events is not a valid excuse. If you can find the time to go to fraternity parties every weekend, then you can also find the time to support students of color on campus. If you can find the time to go to football, hockey, and soccer games, then you can also find the time to support students of color on campus. If you can find the time to play BINGO in the MUB, then you can also find the time to support students of color on campus. If you can find the time to go work out at the Hamel Recreation Center, then you can also find the time to support students of color on campus. If you have the time to be in any club, then you can also find the time to support students of color on campus. If you have time to post a black square or anything about the Black Lives Matter movement, then you also have time to support students of color on campus.
It is not a matter of whether or not you have the time to support these organizations. It is whether or not you care enough about students of color to actually do so. Next year I plan to do better, and I challenge you to do the same.