In the Oct. 23 issue of Cardinal Points, we published an offensive graphic on the front cover that depicted a black graduate in a rundown neighborhood. Windows were broken and boarded up, graffiti caked the walls of buildings and a car sat on cinder blocks with its wheels removed.
The publication of this graphic sparked a lot of uproar is to say the least.
An open forum hosted by AKEBA (SUNY Plattsburgh Black Student Union) in response to the graphic the following Monday garnered more than 400 attendees. There were so many people at the forum that the Warren Ballrooms in the ACC, not everyone could be seated.
All the controversy, all the drama, all the hype — it made me anxious at first — but then I realized it is thrilling to live in a time when so many people care about equality and fighting against discrimination.
One point of view I heard repeatedly during the forum was that Plattsburgh State students felt unrepresented, as if their voices were not being heard. And to be honest, they’re right. Cardinal Points has taken on the responsibility of representing PSUC, but it’s difficult to do that when our 16 staffers equate to not even 1 percent of the student body.
During the forum, attendees were asked to write down their opinions about the graphic, Cardinal Points and the school because there was not enough time for everyone to voice their concerns.
I recently went to the Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman’s office to see what the PSUC community had to say. The sheer amount of note cards amazed me. After six hours of typing up everyone’s opinions, I had barely dented the stack of note cards.
“Everybody’s voice needs to be heard,” Nadyia Munsie, a member of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc., said.
We at Cardinal Points agree, so we are publishing all the statements from the note cards on our website.
A suggestion that I kept reading as I looked over the note cards was mandatory diversity classes on campus.
“Diversity training should be done for all clubs and orgs,” one person wrote.
“More regulations on Cardinal Points. A student based diversity handbook. A mandatory diversity class. Preferably diversity through film,” another person wrote.
This is a good idea in theory, but even people who support diversity classes have their doubts on the outcome of making these classes mandatory.
“There’s been big controversy of whether diversity class should be mandatory or not,” Munsie said. “Some people have said if the diversity class is mandatory it may make those people who don’t want to take it in the first place, or those who really need to take it in the first place to resent it even more. I honestly think it wouldn’t be bad to make it mandatory. At least it’s putting them in the classand hopefully they get something out of it.”
President of AKEBA Lateef Wearrien said he thinks students should take more classes that challenge and change how they view the world and the people in it.
“I feel like gender women’s studies classes challenge you, counseling classes challenge you, psych classes, sociology classes even anthropology classes challenge your thinking and how you view the world.”
This graphic started a campus-wide dialogue. In classes not even related to social issues, students and faculty are communicating on the tensions and inequalities that exist in our society.
“There’s probably a lot of people on this campus that have never had a conversation about it, and they need to, and they need to hear how other people feel,” Munsie said.
Even my travel writing class took time to have an open discussion on racial issues. My friend and classmate Santiago Loja admitted to being stopped and frisked by police officers for reading a book. Another friend and classmate, Manny Vivas, said workers at the Plattsburgh DMV threatened to call security on him because he was wearing his hood.
For Munsie, racism wasn’t a factor in her life before PSUC. Growing up in Albany, Munsie said, “I was not so aware of my race until I came to college. Wearrien said he attended a predominantly black and latino school in the Bronx. He was part of the majority, but now at PSUC, he is part of the minority, or as he prefers “the underrepresented.”
Statistically speaking, the word “minority” means less than 50 percent, but every time I hear that word in relation to people, I have an odd feeling in the back of my mind. That word has a weight to it. In terms of people, “minority” no longer means less than 50 percent, but rather less than a person.
During the open forum, Wearrien said something that resonated with me. He said, “Let’s get uncomfortable.” It’s true. Talking about racial inequalities, prejudice and ethnicity is something that makes humans uncomfortable, but we need to get uncomfortable if we want to fix these problems, not only on campus but across the country.
“You hear time and time again, people are tired of talking,” Wearrien said. “It’s one way we’re trying to bring all the communities together to do it. It’s no longer about the image or it’s no longer about just specifically race. It’s about everyone who feels marginalized and uncomfortable but also bringing anyone who wants to be allies to that table as well.”
The movement doesn’t stop at the forum, though. AKEBA and the PSUC chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, along with other on-campus clubs and orgnaizations such as O.W.E., El Pueblo, K.I.N.K.S., African Unity and NABJ will be hosting a march to bring the unrepresented community together Monday Nov. 9. “The Let’s Get Uncomfortable MARCH” starts at 12:30 p.m. behind Sibley Hall and ends at Hawkins Hall.
Wearrien said to keep the momentum going after the march, certain clubs and organizations on campus will be holding their own events to promote diversity and inclusion.
Wearrien said inequality is not only a student issue. It’s not only a faculty issue. It’s not only a PSUC issue. It’s everybody’s issue.
“Even when you leave SUNY Plattsburgh, you still can face it (racism). It’s not even just a national thing, it’s international as well.”
Email Griffin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org