Social activism has played a major role in how students of color on this campus make their presence known. Their voices aren’t validated as effortlessly as their white peers. Dialogues about race relations on this campus and in this country go beyond what we see trending on social media. It is a lived experience.
It is irrefutable to note that this lived experience is history repeating itself. Racism has transformed itself over the decades, but the end result is the same: People of color fall victim to whiteness as an institution. They remain unheard, devalued and criminalized for their actions against it.
The war on Black bodies dates back to the beginning of time and continues today. Mills activists have never hesitated to respond to these important moments in history.
For instance, the Black Student Union (BSU) of 1969 created a list of 12 requests in response to the overwhelming lack of resources for the Black students on campus. Nearly 50 years later, the Black Women’s Collective (BWC) wrote 11 demands, asking the administration for more support from the financial aid department, a more diverse faculty and more Black counselors in the Counseling and Psychological services. Despite what the 1960s President Robert Joseph Wert and current President Alecia DeCoudreaux have said in past memorandums, nothing has really changed. The 1969 BSU and the now BWC have both requested a higher presence of Black faculty and staff, more financial resources for Black students and the creation of a committee involving Black students, faculty and staff for the retention and recruitment of students of color. None of the demands have been met. Everything the administration has told the Mills community was in an effort to pacify the rage of the students of color. If I was wrong, then the BWC wouldn’t have had to ask time and time again.
Within the last 50 years, the Black students on campus have worked hard to fight against institutional racism on campus in the midst of all of the turmoil in the U.S.
In 1992, an anonymous student posted flyers around the campus that read, “To be a person of color and to attend Mills is to be full of rage,” and “Mills had the opportunity for greatness[.] These are our casualties of war,” preceded by a list of 16 names of faculty of color who have left Mills. The issue was addressed in a town meeting; however, no one came forward about posting the flyers. The fear of speaking out against racism became a prevalent point of discussion at the meeting.
“I think it’s really unfair to ask someone to express their pain in a polite way,” said a student of color who attended the meeting, according to The Mills College Weekly in 1992.
Those messages still ring true 20 years later. The response to students of color being too angry, too inappropriate or too violent in response to the racism we face on a daily basis essentially discredits the pain and the hurt that we are constantly experiencing. The appropriation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement to #AllLivesMatter perpetuates the same issues that the students were facing in the ’90s. Many students feel like they have to censor themselves for the sake of avoiding the discomfort of discussing race politics.
There has been evolution of Mills’s social activism. The students on campus are actively choosing not to be complacent because silence is violence.