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Awkward Momments: Discussing Civil Rights in Class

Sometimes, I can almost sense it—the professor awkwardly clears his throat before hitting “Next” on the PowerPoint to change slides and, suddenly, everyone in lecture is looking at a vintage-y graphic of Abraham Lincoln transposed on the Emancipation Proclamation and the American Flag. The professor goes on to detail how the Civil War became a fight for human rights instead of a battle between land owners, and then goes on to make noble-sounding remarks about legislation concerning Brown Vs. The Board of Education. There’s always a sense where it feels like everyone’s eyes are on me, watching to see if I’ll make a remark. Moments like these, I can’t help but wonder what the role of a minority on a college campus should truly be.

My school counts 7 percent of its undergraduate population as “African American,” with a considerable part of that number from our Division 1 Athletics program. As a presidential scholarship student in one of the school’s honors programs, there are several times when I participate in events and find that I’m the only person of color. When speaking with other black students, situations like these are a trending topic—that insecure thought about whether we were selected to meet a diversity quota or if we were considered for who we are and what we’ve accomplished.

It’s interesting to say, but American college students are already the privileged 1 percent of the world’s population. The number of us that belong to minority groups seem to hold a similar weight of the hopes of our communities on our shoulders.

So what are we to do? Publicly engage in random conversations to show our political awareness? Insist on more programs for Black History Month? How do we communicate to the rest of our peers that black history is an ongoing story of a triumphing people, and not a required credit section in American and Ethnic Studies classes?

This isn’t meant to be a rant, but something I’ve been thinking about since starting college; I’m interested in hearing your thoughts!

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