The Politics of Race at DelVal

When people talk about systematic and institutionalized racism it is often vague in ways we can’t pinpoint. We are just overtly aware that there is system in place that consistently makes it harder for people of color. This year I became President of the Black Student Union (BSU) and everything we tried to accomplish has been met with institutional barriers. Last semester and even earlier this semester, I didn’t believe that it was specifically racism, I simply felt that the multiple office visits, the money inconsistencies and all the other problems we have had this semester were simply a part of being an executive member of a club, meaning every club goes through this. As the semester continued to progress and I started getting know club leaders both inside and outside of the Minority Relation Council (MRC), I started becoming more aware of the fact that it is not hard for every club. It is not even hard for every club in the Minority Relations Council. The Black Student Union has continuously been underfunded, under-promoted and disrespected on campus. In my last post I wrote about the fact that we have been operating without a budget and were told to request special allocations, which happened about two weeks ago. This is where it got really out of hand for me. Twenty-three clubs on campus applied and presented for special allocations. Out of the twenty-three clubs, the Black Student Union was the only club applying for special allocations that didn’t have a budget originally. Meaning for every other club this money was additional money to what the Student Government Board already gave them. Despite this, BSU was allotted one of the smallest awards given this year at special allocations. We requested 2500 to cover the costs for events we’ve already had and events that were supposed to run in the last few weeks of school. Because we were only allotted 750, which only covers the cost of one event that already happened and the facilitator is still waiting on the check, we had to cancel three events. This is what we mean by systematic racism. When we did our presentation everyone was excited about the events we had planned. They did not ask any questions or raise any concerns. So it was exceptionally confusing and disheartening to me to follow up a good presentation by underfunding it. When I began to talk to other club leaders and learned that they acquired more money I began to look at the dynamic. Our club was the only club to have two black student advocates. Consistently in these positions of power we are met with people and offices that are condescending and treat us like we don’t belong there. It is something that has been present in almost all of our interactions as leaders of this club and as members of MRC. I am the treasurer of MRC and every time I have acted to fulfill that role, it has been a hassle. Two weeks after all of my treasurer training, I went to receive our account number and log in information and was asked why I needed it. I was asked for paper work to prove that I was current treasurer, paper work MRC completed and submitted weeks before my training. When I reiterated this, the response was: “So I just forgot two weeks of my life, okay.” I was then given the account number on a post it and I have still yet to receive the log in information on our account and there are only two weeks left of school. Every check request and budget transfer form that I have completed and turned in this semester whether it is for BSU or MRC has been exceptionally hard to get approved and processed. Earlier this week MRC had one of it’s last meetings of the semester. In this meeting, many club leaders expressed frustration about the institutional barriers on campus. Many times we have been made to feel as though there was not space for the multiple voices of MRC. Many times this year outside forces have tried to combine Students For Diversity and BSU. They have also tried to pin the two clubs against each other as if they couldn’t both exist, and in this meeting we talked about ways of recognizing when this happens. Refusing to acknowledge the differences in these clubs and the different executive officers for each respective club has caused an excessive amount of miscommunication this entire year. When there is something or someone trying to minimize and tell us that our voices are only welcome in certain spaces, that is a barrier. While we had this conversation, while I always have this conversation; that is also a part of the problem. I am tired of being the one to always have to say something. I am tired of having the same conversations with people who are just as equally frustrated as I am and have yet to find the power to do something about it. The executive members of BSU are all seniors graduating this year; when we reached out to other students for positions next year many of them were disheartened and uninterested because of how much it takes. With that we have yet to fill all of those spots for next year. That is systematic racism. That is institutionalized racism; and honestly I don’t think many are aware that it is even happening. We can have these conversations about it and define it but we have yet to fix the ways in which it actually operates, and that needs to happen now.

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