Sarah Toutant is a sociology and critical diversity studies major.
Last Thursday, the Black Student Union (BSU) invited its members, students of color, and allies to join them in a Black Out. The USF community showed up wearing all black and filled the University Center’s 4th floor lounge with a very powerful presence. This Black Out was fueled by other black students across the nation, in an effort to show our solidarity with the black students at Mizzou. It’s vital that we frame our rhetoric to state “black students” as opposed to “students of color” when referring to the happenings in Mizzou; the threats at Mizzou were specifically targeting black students and it’s important to be critically conscious when framing this story. Although people of color have overlapping experiences dealing with white supremacy in this nation, each marginalized group has their own experience with oppression that deserves its unique attention.
The Black Out proved to be a space of real, empowering and unapologetic dialogue among students. The UC 4th floor lounge was filled with over 200 people within 13 hours of the event being publicized through the BSU’s social media. Professors, administration, and staff lined the walls of the lounge and allowed for students’ voices to be heard. Every single voice that was heard that day were student voices but most importantly, black student voices. We acknowledged that we do not live in a post racial society and what is happening is Mizzou is not an isolated incident. Even here at USF, public safety officers have asked black male students for identification for looking “suspicious” in hoodies.
There are some at USF who still find it difficult to acknowledge that racism still exists and black students, along with other critically conscious students of color, have to deal with the comments that accompany their lack of understanding of racism. When you are the only one that looks like you in your classroom, it’s easy to let such comments subside because some professors at USF don’t care to address race in the classroom. However, there are those professors who do advocate for us, black students, and please know that we see you, we hear you, we know who you are, and we thank you.
It is my honor to be the Black Student Union President here at the University of San Francisco. To see people that look like me in such a state of pain and anger is one of the most difficult parts of my position. I am not only the president of a campus club, but I am a leader in fighting for the livelihood of black students on this campus. That said, I am honored because it puts me in a position to create change, empower others, and do my absolute best to continue to create a space where future African American students will be able to learn in an environment without having to worry about the next time their professor asks how they feel about slavery. One of the ways my position enabled me to do this is by organizing events such as the Black Out, and also working to bring a high profile speaker to campus this upcoming February. Overall, I think it’s critical that we change USF before we go around saying “Change the World From Here.”