Korryn Gaines, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. These are just some of the names of the lives lost to police brutality this summer.
The first week of classes, the struggle students of color face was signaled by a vigil held by Black Onyx, the Black Student Union. The vigil was held to remember the lives lost to police violence this past summer. The Chief of University Police Jerry Lottie, Criminal Justice professor Breea Willingham, and Chemistry professor Dexter Criss were some notable speakers. Students also had a chance to voice their concerns.
For many students, faculty and staff, attending the vigil was all too familiar. Previously during the fall 2015 semester, a vigil was also held to remember the lives of Sandra Bland, Michael Brown and several other black lives that were also lost because of police brutality.
What makes this academic year different from the last?
For students of color, it is Plattsburgh itself.
There have been an overwhelming amount of discussions on diversity and fostering a more open, inclusive and diverse Plattsburgh community, but not much is changing.
During the summer vacation, a Plattsburgh State fraternity house was vandalized and the word “nigger” was written on the house. Pizza Bono had a sign up in its store window that said “Blue Lives Matter.”
Also, let us not forget that when Donald Trump came to Plattsburgh last spring, confederate flags were raised and waved proudly.
These events and additional instances of prejudice and racism make Plattsburgh an uncomfortable place for me, and I am sure other students of color may agree. Unfortunately, instances of prejudices or racism is not uncommon. When I think of Plattsburgh I associate it with micro aggressions and discrimination and accept it as a norm. In some cases, it makes me homesick for the city. In the city I am street smart and I am ready to fight if someone gets too close or look at me the wrong way. While I take caution when I walk around at night, I do not feel threatened because of the color of my skin.
Here in Plattsburgh it is the opposite. I feel like the color of my skin makes me a target for some unforeseen event. I am more fearful to walk around at night by myself and when I see a confederate flag I tense up.
I am not saying Plattsburgh is the worst town to live in as an African American, but it does make attending college here uneasy. Fortunately, this also proves that there is room left to grow.
Continuing to have discussions about diversity and race will help but we need to find ways to get our white classmates involved in those discussions. We also need to know our resources.
You want more diversity in University Police? Take the exam. You want to know more about a topic related to race and culture and how it affects others? Attend an event by Black Onyx, the Plattsburgh Association of Black Journalists, Fuerza, the Black and Latino Student Union, or the National Black Law Student Association, just to name a few.
Change does not occur when the group being oppressed is the only one advocating for justice. Our white counterparts need to be involved as well.
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