Rudairo Segbeaya is a junior psychology major.
In a world in which the color of your skin determines your own safety, each person of color carries this burden with them throughout their day. Microaggressions are a “subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.” These remarks made by peers, faculty, and college administrators, are the “new face of racism.”
That cringe-worthy moment when you hear the guy you like say, “you’re really pretty…for a black girl,” or a professor astonished at how articulate you are for someone of “your background” creates an uneasiness to one’s surroundings that can lead to demises in student performance, mental health, and work productivity. The disregard of black lives through the use of these microaggressions has become a phenomena that requires attention and acknowledgement on all college campuses, including our own here at USF. In order for students to keep sane while dealing with this adversity, the only solution that stands is creating a sense of community and support so that no one is alone when facing discrimination. This is exactly what Cal State Los Angeles is hoping to do with the creation of the Halisi Scholars program.
African American students who attend Cal State Los Angeles have reported that, “Black students […] are constantly made targets of racist attacks by fellow students, faculty, and administration.” In order to combat the detrimental effects caused by dealing with this constant discrimination, the Halisi Scholars was created after the Black Student Union demanded something be done. Within a dorm complex of 192 units, the Halisi Scholars program offers 20 to be reserved specifically for black students. This area allows those who are affected by racial discrimination to retreat to a safe zone.
Then came those who saw the program as a form of “self-segregation,” and it criticized students for being “hypersensitive” to comments that were in actuality, racially-driven. With phrases such as, “You only got in because you’re black,” or “the government only feels bad for you,” it makes it impossible to ignore the fact that racism does exist on college campuses, and that this program is absolutely necessary.
Not being able to fully embrace one’s college education, especially one that is not easily paid for, is something no student should endure. Community has always been an essential part of college life, and when one group of people is alienated based on the premise of ethnicity, a sense of belonging deteriorates. The Halisi Scholars program is a necessity for black students, like myself, to feel safe and comfortable in order to achieve the best we can. College campuses across the country have one main goal for their students: to thrive and become productive citizens. It is the university’s responsibility to accommodate accordingly to ensure the success of all their students. As Cal State Los Angeles paves the way for this new generation of university support, I do believe USF can do the same to let its black students know that we matter just as much as everyone else.
Having a safe space other than the bi-monthly Black Student Union meetings at USF would allow the black community to have more support on our campus. Hopefully USF will follow in Cal State Los Angeles’ footsteps and create their own version of the Halisi Scholars.