Mizzou

Why We Need To Listen To People’s Experiences With Racism Instead Of Brushing It Off

Tuesday night at around 8 pm, I got a call from my best friend about a threat being made to students on the University of Missouri campus, via the popular anonymous social media app, Yik Yak.

For the next four hours, we watched our Twitter timelines as the events unfolded at my alma mater.

This was a place I had just called home a few months ago. But it was also an institution where I had experienced more racism than anywhere else in my life.

It’s so easy for those not affected by the threats last night (or even the killing of black citizens by white cops) to say racism doesn’t exist.

What these people fail to realize is their privilege allows them to feel that way.

It’s white privilege that allows you to ignore the voices of the black students at Mizzou. It’s white privilege that allows you to walk around campus and not fear for your safety. It’s white privilege that excuses you from educating yourself on systemic racism and how it manifests.

In my four years at Mizzou, I have been called the N-word every semester. I’ve been told to go back where I came from.

In one embarrassing moment, I’ve even been stopped at the university bookstore and had my bag completely dumped out because a cashier swore she saw me take something.

I hadn’t taken anything.

These acts are more than just coincidences. They are more than just a few bad apples at our university.

They are examples of a deeper problem, not only at Mizzou, but all across this country.

Racism is so deeply engrained in our history that white students on the Mizzou campus today don’t even recognize it. The very campus they walk on was more than likely built on the backs of blacks in 1839, before slavery was abolished.

Missouri was one of the last states to abolish slavery. Our rivalry with the University of Kansas actually stems from the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas Nebraska Act, where Kansas was declared a free state and Missouri was declared a slave state.

Last night, as I scrolled through Twitter and Yik Yak, I saw so many of my white peers and alumni claim getting called a racial slur was no big deal.

They said former UM System President Tim Wolfe’s lack of reaction to racist incidents on campus was not enough reason for him to lose his job.

But they just don’t get it.

What Concerned Student 1950 is fighting for is bigger than one man’s removal from office. It’s bigger than the football team boycotting practice and a game that could have cost Mizzou a million dollars.

It’s even bigger than Hunter Park, who is the student believed to have posted the threats to Yik Yak last night.

Systemic racism is the issue here.

It is why Mizzou put out a tweet saying there was no real threat to campus, even though hundreds of students had seen and heard threats on campus in the time it took the university to craft the misinformed tweet.

It’s why it took four hours for the police to release Park’s name out of fear for his life, as if black lives aren’t under attack every day on campus.

It’s why the University of Missouri can get away with having only 3 percent of its faculty be black, when the black student population is more than double that.

Systemic racism isn’t understood by the majority because it doesn’t affect them.

Unless a person of color decides to give information about the systemic racism he or she has experienced, it doesn’t exist to whites.

White students would rather focus on everything wrong with the protests that have happened on campus during the last 18 months than admit their beloved university has a problem.

It does, as do many universities across the country.

Marginalized groups on campus need their voices heard.

They must be heard.

Last night was not the first time threats have been made to the Black Culture Center on campus, or to black people on campus.

Administrators need to listen to students, create action plans for situations like these and stop brushing them off as isolated incidents. Dylan Roof and other white supremacists have shown us what happens when people ignore online threats.

My fear is if white students, administrators and faculty don’t listen now, they’ll regret it one day.

The days after you toss your cap

Four years ago, I could not wait to get out of the small suburb of Fishers, IN and start my new life at Mizzou. Two days ago, that journey came to an end and I’ve been trying to find the right words to help explain how I’m feeling, but I am honestly not sure they exist.

For the most part, things have always come easy for me. High school wasn’t ridiculously hard, I did pretty well, the only real failure I remember is not making the volleyball team sophomore year (which was actually a blessing in disguise because I discovered journalism), but besides that, I was afforded awesome opportunities.

College was a different ball game, there were so many people and everyone wanted to be friends for stupid reasons. It felt like summer camp all over again (I hated summer camp– bugs, outdoors, box lunches, not for me). I felt like I had to sell myself to my floor-mates on why I should be invited to sit with them at lunch and I’m not too much here for cliques.

To say the least, I went through a lot of friends my first two years at Mizzou, but the really great ones stayed and put up with my dramatic, crazy life (but seriously). College was the first time I experienced multiple difficulties. I was depressed, I got my heart broken and I was not doing so hot in school.

But here I am on the other side of it, shocked. I’m shocked I graduated in four years, I’m shocked I was able to stretch myself so thin and most of all I’m shocked I don’t have a job yet.

You always see pictures from graduation day of the happy alums and their perfectly decorated caps (like the pictures below) but few graduates ever share what’s going through their minds during the ceremony and at the time they walk across the stage. Fear, excitement, plans to drink copious amounts of alcohol once it’s all over. The thing I was worried about most at the time: tripping and falling on stage.

Grad Day

But now I’m two days removed from the ceremony and celebrations and I just feel…weird and sort of like a loser. I have no real summer plans, I’ve spent most of my day staring at my email and phone waiting for a interview or job offer to come through. I feel desperate.

Graduation comes and goes, just like any other day. But for me it has aways been painted as my golden ticket to life and while I consider my degree a ticket to some awesome future experiences, the idea that they happen immediately after graduation is false.

I don’t have the slightest idea what the summer holds for me and that’s very scary, but I am determined to start those projects I never started and finish others, I will take control of my health and I will pray without ceasing because I know my opportunity is out there and I know my time is coming. And for those of you who are recent grads in similar positions, I challenge you to do the same. Lean on family and friends, trust God, it’ll all work out.

And to the class of 2015, congratulations, we made it!

Continuing a Stereotype: Olivia Pope as the Independent Black Woman

This past Thursday I was selected as one of ten students from the University of Missouri Department of Communication to present a research project that I did in my TV Criticisms class last semester. It was such an honor to be chosen and I was so proud of the work I did on the poster that I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

So, what better way to do that than by using the internet!?

Scandal Poster

For my project I looked at the show Scandal, a popular drama written by Shonda Rhimes and starring the amazing Kerry Washington. I talked about how Shonda wrote this amazing character who’s successful, the lead of the show and African American, which we don’t see that often. The independent black woman is this new character in media that we’re seeing now and it’s awesome because we’re seeing black women do some amazing things, but it’s also still perpetuating stereotypes of black women in media.

In order to prove this, I looked at the three man stereotypes of black women in media: Mammy (mother figure), Jezebel (sexually promiscuous) and Sapphire, (ghetto, attitude) I also pulled quotes and examples from each season of Scandal where Olivia is portraying these stereotypes.

Mammy- Olivia’s entire line of work is to take care of people, as a mother would, no matter how much her clients or even her associates mess up, she eventually forgives them, just like a mother would.
Jezebel- Olivia has many sexual partners, but commits to none because the one that she wants, is taken…and the President of the United States.
Sapphire- Olivia definitely is not afraid to fly off the handle and get in someone’s face when she needs something done. She demands attention and respect from those around her (as most people would). Unfortunately, when a Black woman acts like this she is often seen as ghetto.

I argued that the reason fans (of which I am one) don’t realize these stereotypes are being portrayed within Olivia’s character is because 1) they’re happening all at once, which is something that other Black women characters on television don’t do and 2) Shonda Rhimes has added this layer of independence to the character. Because Olivia is so successful and great at what she does, we tend to overlook or ignore the stereotypes of black women that have been ingrained in American society dating all the way back to slavery.

Olivia is independent of her family, her friends and a significant other, which makes us love her. She’s powerful and has created a name for herself in Washington D.C., she is a future PR woman’s role model, but despite all those things her character still perpetuates stereotypes of Black women in media.

I concluded with one main thought: Scandal is not new. The show is not a new concept, but rather a very well written twist on past stereotypes of Black women in media. It is so popular among minorities, specifically women because for once we are seeing a successful Black woman, on her own. In fact, the theme of the Independent Black Woman is very popular right now with shows such as Being Mary Jane and How to Get Away With Murder. 

I’m not arguing that Scandal is a terrible show, my eyes are glued to the screen for an hour every Thursday just like everyone else. I am looking at Scandal from a critical view. I can enjoy the show, while also recognizing it’s flaws and I believe sharing my findings will help other become critical media viewers as well.

Like I said, it was such an honor to be grouped with so many talented students for this undergraduate research presentation. I had so much fun sharing my findings and gushing about Scandal with students, faculty and alumni.

Easter Sunday + Convo with Common

I promised myself that I was going to write more, I had tons of ideas and titles picked out for future posts, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I felt like it was something I had to do. I felt like it would impress future employers or teachers and so I’d start a blog post, get about a quarter of the way through and then say “I’ll come back to it,” (spoiler alert I never did).

I have wanted to write ever since I was in kindergarten, it was an outlet for me. In class, when we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up I always proudly said an author and an illustrator (which are pretty big words for a kindergartner if you ask me). I even came to Mizzou convinced that I was going to be the greatest editor-in-chief to graduate from the journalism school. Now I’m 30 something days away from walking across that stage and I’m not even graduating with a journalism degree. In fact, I’m more confused than ever about what I actually want to do with my life.

I came to a point where I just got sick of writing and the more people said “but you’re so good at it!” the more I wanted nothing to do with it. I can’t even say why, I’m not sure why. What I was writing just didn’t excite me anymore and they weren’t inspiring anyone else so I thought there was no point.

David and I went to Kansas City for Easter weekend. I always get really homesick during Easter, so I thought getting out of town might help (it didn’t–I now know that no matter where I end up in life, I will need to go home for Easter). We visited New Vision Christian Church. Before the service started I was on my phone, messing around with my LinkedIn, which as you can imagine I have become obsessed with since I am looking for a job post grad. I was looking over my applications that I had sent in via the LinkedIn app and some were really strong and some weren’t as strong. I knew I had been applying to a job for the sake of getting a job, but I hadn’t realized to the extent that I had been doing so. When I got to the bottom of the list a window popped up and said “You have applied for 48 jobs.”

My mouth dropped, I knew that number was only the jobs I had applied to on the app. That didn’t include the 20+ jobs I had applied to via other websites. How could I have applied for that many jobs and had no luck? My mind raced with thoughts of friends who have connections, or who are putting their eggs all in one basket and hoping it works out. I thought of classmates who are in schools at Mizzou that have job placement and ones who refuse to look for any jobs that aren’t in a certain city or state and in that moment, as church was starting I got so frustrated. Pissed even. I had been so open with my search. I had applied for jobs in almost every major (and not so major) city. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong and I wasn’t sure what God was trying to teach me. Even worse I felt (and still feel) like no one understood what I was going through, even though I am surrounded by graduating seniors.

As the sermon started I tried to brush all the thoughts I was having off and just enjoy what was being preached on. The pastor preached out of Philippians, one of my favorite books of the Bible. He read the letter Paul wrote from jail (Philippians 3:4-11) where he talked about his status in society and how none of that matters if he does not have Jesus in his life. The pastor went on to preach about how some Christians may feel like there is something missing in their lives, how we need to seek God out more, stay prayed up through the good and the bad and read the bible daily.

But that’s not really what spoke to me. There was a point in the sermon where the pastor paused and he admitted he wasn’t sure why he was saying what he was about to say, but that God was speaking through him and someone in the room needed to hear it. He said (and this is not word for word) “Someone in here is a writer. One of you can write, you can write beautifully the way Paul wrote and you are not using the gift that God gave you.”

He went on to talk about how words can change people, how the Bible changes lives daily. He then said “Whoever I am speaking to, spend some more time in the word, spend more time writing and see if God doesn’t change your life.”

I without a doubt believe he was speaking to me. I believe God was speaking through him. I left church feeling so inspired, with plans to finish all the blog spots I had started as well as write new ones. But then homesickness took over, and by the time David and I got back to Columbia, I was tired and sad and I just didn’t want to do anything, so I didn’t.

For the next few days I spent free time working on homework assignments, watching Netflix, pretty much doing anything, but writing. Then last night, my boyfriend David got us tickets to hear Common speak on the topic of greatness.

common

His speech focused on finding your path, what you’re good at and love and letting it change your life. The moment he started talking about our path, writing is what came to my mind. All my life I’ve told myself that I was going to be a great writer. I didn’t know what I was going to write, or where or how, but I thought that was the path God had for me and so I was going to do it. I realize I’m lucky to have realized the gift that God gave me at such a young age. It’s never changed for me, it’s always been writing. I just needed a reminder.

Writing may not be what I get my first job in, I may never actually have a job description that is solely writing, but I definitely think it’s the first step to something bigger for me. But the pastor was right, how can I find out what that something bigger is if I don’t pray about it, read the Bible more and write. It’s not going to be easy by any means, I’m balancing so many things, but I truly believe making an effort to pray more, read the bible more and write more will bring me happiness.

If you’ve been lucky enough to find your calling already, live in it, do it with purpose and if you haven’t yet, spend some time alone reflecting, or with God or whatever high being you believe in. Trust that there is something out there that you can do amazingly well. And in the words of Common: “Find your path. Love your path. Believe in your path.”

Check out Dell’s awesome Black Friday deals!

Hey friends, so as some of you may know, I’m campus rep for Dell and with that I get awesome discounts that I get to share with all of you (even if you don’t go to Mizzou). With that said, I wanted to encourage you all to take advantage of Dell’s ‪Black Friday deals on Dell.com/Mizzou. My mom just saved $200 on a laptop! Also, if you’re interested, I’ve got a few 10% off coupon codes valid until the end of January, just message me for it or if you have any questions!

Ch-Ch-Changes

What a crazy couple of weeks its been. I started the semester with the worst of attitudes. In theory, I had three semesters left in college but with only 70 credit hour completed, I wasn’t so sure if and how I’d make it.

So, I had to do some serious soul searching, what did I like to do? What did I want to do? One morning, feeling completely defeated, I sat on the edge of my bed, held my head down and said “screw this, I’m switching to Comm.” There is such a negative connotation that comes with a University of Missouri J-School major switching to Communications. People think you can’t handle the pressure, they think your GPA is terrible, or that one of your editors or professors along the way silently told you to consider another career path.

It’s funny because none of those things happened to me. I’ve got a solid 3.0 GPA, I like to think I am/was pretty unfazed by my future in the j-school (why stay up and cry over something hasn’t happened yet?) and my journalism professors thus far, have been nothing short of amazing and supportive. But I wasn’t happy.

I came to Mizzou sold on the dream that the j-school was my golden ticket to any publication, PR firm or newsroom I wanted to work for. Two years later, I found out, it wasn’t. The unfortunate truth is journalism is a dying industry, at least print is. Jobs are hard to come by and you’ve got to be one step ahead of the game if you’re going to make it. It’s not necessarily about who interned for Seventeen magazine and who choose to stay in their home town and write for their city/regional mag, it’s what you did with your time at those publications.

I looked at my resume over winter break and was a little less than impressed with myself, at least with what I had done journalistically, so I spruced up my resume, cranked out a few cover letters, and applied everywhere I could (well, everywhere that I could live for free). In fact, I’m still applying everywhere I can. I’ve realized sometimes, it’s how bad you want it and that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

So what was a blog that was supposed to highlight my journey through the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, is now a blog dedicated to my journey through the Communications school, and my last three semesters at Mizzou, grad school applications, internships and relationships.

My journey through the j-school may be over, but life is just getting started.

New Beginnings

So over break I took the time to apply for a lot of internships and I do mean a lot. I lost count after 30 or so and I’m still slowly sending in more applications. An opportunity presented itself for me to intern during the semester and I thought, why not. At first I was pretty sold on taking a full schedule of classes, really focusing on my grades and finally getting into the jschool (I am junior after all). But alas, here I am, at midnight, giving up on my reading for the night and telling myself I should drop a class and just take another one online.

I’ve never really liked school at all. I’ve always been pretty okay at it (B average every year) but I’ve always hated it. I hate what it stands for. I hate that an A means I’m worthy of praise, but a B raises the question “Did we slack off towards the end?” I hate that I can be damn near failing a class all semester and when I pull it up to a C (something I was proud of) I’m told “not good enough” (the class average was a C-/D+ by the way).

I’ve never felt as dumb as I have since coming to college. I’ll admit, part of it is the laziness, but another part is, teachers just don’t care. I’ve had maybe 2 teachers during my collegiate career that I really, truly felt like they wanted me to succeed, every other one was just waiting for the 16 weeks to be over, and I can’t blame them. We as students show up to class, read, participate and study not because we actually give a crap about our fragile beaches, but because we want that A. We want to succeed and of course an A is equated with being smart and successful and driven (which if you didn’t know by now is a crock of BS).

You see, as a pre-journalism student at Mizzou I am told that I can’t get credit (or land) internships that are worthy of college credit because I haven’t taken my core sequence classes, but here I am, a pre-j student, with a new internship with Inside Columbia Magazine. I’ll admit, I’m a little intimidated by the other interns, they’re magazine journalism majors, they’ve worked in a newsroom besides  Mizzou’s student run newspaper and their high school publication. I haven’t. But I’m there. And I’m there for a reason. Something made me stick out of the bunch and I’m sick of doubting myself because I don’t have straight As or I’m not in the J-school.

I go back and forth every day on whether or not I should be here, at Mizzou, pursuing a journalism degree and it just doesn’t feel right. I don’t love what I’m learning and frankly, I just don’t care anymore. It isn’t fair for me to be taking a seat in classes that I don’t care about because there is some kid studying his or her butt off in high school to be an automatically admitted student into the Missouri School of Journalism. I wasn’t that kid, I’m still not.

I’m not interested in graduating late from a school that I don’t care about. I feel like I have out grown Missouri and fallen out of love with journalism. I still love to write, but I don’t know, something has changed. It makes me sad, but why stay in a program that makes me unhappy.

Maybe I’ve just had a long day and all these feelings are clouding my judgment, but enough of being on the fence, it’s time to make some serious decisions.

Stay tuned.