‘We were not created, then colored; We were created of color’

Campus activist explains importance of appropriate language

BASHEERA AGYEMAN, Guest columnist

The word “colored” is a white supremacist term, and you don’t have to take a comparative ethnic studies class to know that. You just have to not feed in to white supremacist ideologies. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that The Daily Evergreen had printed a summary of an article in which “WSU colored leaders” was used to describe multicultural faculty.

The entire country just watched a white nationalist rally unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia, and my first thought was whether or not that word was making a comeback. But then, perhaps it never went away. Perhaps, it just sits in the back of “non-colored” people’s minds and in their writers’ voices, unknown even to them.

Vashti Breland, public relations officer for Black Student Union and a student leader who attended the sit-in, explained that she heard the word “colored” used in class by another student here at WSU.

“The professor didn’t do anything about it. That made me feel unsupported, like we’re still viewed as nothing more than a color,” Breland said.

To set the record straight, we were not created and then colored. We were created of color.

The use of this type of language on our campus speaks to a broader issue of a lack of understanding regarding racial literacy and identity.

Likewise, our current campus climate is only a reflection of the marginalization being experienced by oppressed groups on a national level.

Over the first week of school, not only were students of color reminded that some people in the world still see them as “colored,” but also that our affairs are not regarded as part of the affairs of the entire institution. They are pushed to the bottom of the university’s agenda.

On Friday, many of us expressed similar sentiments of weariness. We would have rather been in class, preparing for a successful semester.

One of the demands that student activists sat in to demonstrate for is the creation of a mandatory cultural competency training similar to that of Green Dot and Booze, Sex and Reality Checks. This workshop would educate students on the importance of language and understanding how identity functions in society.

Simply talking about dreams of a tolerant and inclusive campus has not sufficed to combat bigotry.

Students want to hear that our institution is taking a proactive and revolutionary approach to combating hatred, racism, colonialist ideology and propelling an environment of empowerment.

Lastly, speaking of words that you should probably stay away from in your quest to be more culturally competent, the word “tolerant” in the context of race, society and identity has always rubbed me the wrong way. To be tolerant of something means that something is a nuisance but that one must bear it anyway.

That is why I hesitate to encourage “tolerance” on this campus. People of color are not a nuisance to be tolerated. We are a body of students who are resilient despite the adversities we face day in and day out on our campus. For that alone, we should be celebrated.