I didn’t do Bridge. I remember when the invitation came through my mailbox the summer before freshman year. Being black in predominantly white schools was nothing new to me, so why would I purposefully ostracize myself and allow Gonzaga to label me as a “minority” before I ever even got a chance to be blend in?
All I ever wanted was to be normal.
What took me only three years to figure out was that it wasn’t just some invitation I was avoiding. In reality all I was avoiding was my own identity.
Navigating this campus as a black man has been challenging. I’ve known this since freshman year; I just didn’t allow myself to think about it. I told myself that all my struggles were the same struggles as my white friends.
This was incredibly naïve and ignorant.
Here’s why: Nothing about my history is taught in the classroom. None of my classes inform me on how to be a black man in this world. No one ever prepared me for the eight times I’ve been pulled over by cops, the three times job interviewers have made an inappropriate comment about my intelligence in relation to my skin color, or the countless times people have crossed to the opposite side of the street just to avoid the “scary black guy.”
I came to this school alone. No one told me how to survive, much less thrive. I guess I never really asked, but really did I need to? When every other white student is just naturally in some sort of support group, it sure as hell seemed like there weren’t that many people who were struggling like I was.
One day, with the help of a very supportive friend, I finally found myself at a Black Student Union meeting. It was immediate bliss. All this time I thought BSU was a place to go be ostracized as a black student, openly ignoring that it was happening regardless. Now I’m about to graduate, and I have a few thoughts I’d like to leave with GU.
I am not angry, just incredibly disappointed in this university. In the Comprehensive Leadership Program here we talk about turning up the heat so as to maintain a vested interest on the issues. It’s a damn shame that most students in this school only care about racial inequality when something happens that’s too large to avoid. It’s even worse when I can say the same about the administration.
Secondly, this is not a university I would ever recommend a student of color to attend. I shouldn’t have to ask my professor to talk about racial inequality in an HR class. I shouldn’t have to be a sociology student just to learn about gender and racial inequity. There should be as much effort put into making underrepresented minorities comfortable and acclimated as there is for everyone else.
Students of color form tight-knit communities on this campus, and they often stay together. To a certain extent this is by choice, but when the only people that you feel care about you or relate to you are the ones who look like you, then we have a glaring problem.
Thayne shouldn’t tell me to my face that he feels like many upperclassmen (of color) start on the path of social justice only to feel “burnt out” by senior year. Why do they burn out? Is it because the work is too much? Is it because the cause seems hopeless? Is it because there is literally no support from the majority of students and faculty? Because don’t ever tell me these students who never asked to solve a whole institution’s worth of problems are “burnt out” for any other reason than the countless times they were all but told they don’t matter.
Many of us in the black community often talk about how GU showed such a vested interest in us as we picked a university, but seemingly stopped caring once we got here.
I’m not here to help diversify your pie chart. At least show me this.
Eli Ashenafi is a senior studying business.