A warning to incoming People of Color

FAITH SUTTON, Special to The Denisonian — My name is Faith Sutton. I’m a sophomore from Columbus, Ohio. I went to a high school where the majority was the minority. There was not a single White individual in my graduating class. So you wouldn’t be surprised that I experienced a bit of a culture-shock coming to this school. But after navigating through Aug-O, I was plunged into a pipe-dream that this campus is a place where everyone lives harmoniously and we can all figure out how to get along. I thought I was admitted into the utopia of universities. I have no way of knowing how many of you were also fed a figmented delusion that this campus is nearly perfect. But I have some pretty predictable news for you all: this place is far from perfect for people like us.

My eyes started to open up to the realities of this campus when I saw “BUILD A WALL” written on the wall in my common room. Written on the wall so many times that they had to take down the wallpaper. My vision became clearer when I realized posters advertising POC events were a constant target of vandalism. Posters were being shredded and torn off the walls in elevators, so no one could see these cowards at work. Finally, my eyesight was perfectly clear to our political climate after sitting in on a meeting of the Denison Campus Governance Association (DCGA), our student body government. 

Without going into much detail, the finance committee of DCGA did all they could to ensure that POC organizations were not given the budgets they needed to survive. Being underfunded and undermined, I watched students drain themselves mentally and emotionally trying to convince the committee to give them the proper funding they deserved. It was, of course, futile, and the POC organizations left those meetings without sufficient funds. Now it’s one thing to experience blatant racism, like being called a racial slur, but knowing that your fellow students chose to use systematic oppression when they had the opportunity to change the narrative was disheartening. The majority of the finance committee was perfectly fine with ensuring that people of color had to struggle just to keep their clubs alive on this campus.

Now I’m not trying to scare you. I just don’t want any of you to be lulled into a false sense of security. This campus is nowhere near the redneck South, and I’ve yet to be called a nigger. I just want you all to be aware. It is not difficult to feel comfortable on this campus if you put in the work. There are many spaces where I feel free to be myself. And I want you first-years to find those spaces for yourselves. I’m definitely not saying that as POC you should restrict yourself to clubs, event, or friend groups that are exclusively designed for POC; I’m just insisting you don’t let your guard down to the fact that this campus is not much different from anywhere else in America, as far as racial tensions are concerned. And don’t be shook if you go to a party at the Sunnies party and hear all the White students exclaim the “n-word” in every rap song with no remorse. I didn’t even bring up that time someone drew a swastika in the library, and that’s only because I don’t know very much about that situation.This article may seem kind of negative, but I actually wanted it to be a message of solidarity. Know that if you ever feel discomfort or exclusion, someone on this campus has your back. And if you need help finding that someone, look me up. I’ll point you toward the right direction. There is a (somewhat poorly-made) list of POC organizations at https://denison.edu/campus/diversity/student-organizations. And if you don’t see a club that relates to you, you can even make your own. Find your place, find your voice and make this a campus that anyone and everyone can feel proud of.

Faith Sutton ‘22 is a psychology major and Black studies minor from Columbus, Ohio.

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