Oberlin Blogs

A Resolution for Everyone's Resolution List

January 22, 2015

Samantha Smylie ’17

Black Lives Lost To Police Brutality

Oscar Grant
Michael Brown
Eric Garner
Tamir Rice
Tanesha Anderson
John Crawford III
Kajieme Powell
Kimani Gray
Kendrec Mcdade
Ervin Jefferson
Timothy Stansbury Jr.
Sean Bell
Wendell Allen
Armand Bennett
Timothy Russell
Cameron Tillman
Von Derrit Myers Jr.
Laquan McDonald
Roshad McIntosh
...and many more.

This subject is very touchy for me to talk about because it is near to my heart and it is the core of my identity. The lives of those listed above are important to acknowledge. Our society has made it apparent that the lives of those who are Black and Brown do not matter, but Black lives do matter. Black people are human. We are mothers and fathers. We are sisters and brothers. We are cousins. We are friends that you laugh with and cry to. We are teachers, police officers, lawyers, doctors, and much more. We are here. We will not be invisible anymore. Our lives are important.

Before I go into a heavy topic, I want to say Happy New Year's and I hope everyone reading this blog post has welcomed 2015 with open arms. I hope that you have a wonderful year.

At the beginning of every year it is a tradition to create goals for the entire year. I, on the other hand, opted out of this tradition. I did not want to create any New Year resolutions because it seemed impossible to plan for an entire year--most people fail. I decided that I need to take it day by day. Then I realized that I lied to myself--there is something that I want to do in 2015.

For 2015, I pledge to myself that I will amplify the voices of marginalized/oppressed people in every medium that I can. I will blog about my experiences as a low-income, Black woman on this campus. I will not be afraid to talk about my experiences in my classes. I will not feel ashamed of my identity anymore. I will challenge my professors to acknowledge my presence and to acknowledge the experiences of Black people in America.

When I arrived at Oberlin, I did not believe that being a low-income, Black woman on campus would negatively influence my experience. I grew up learning about Black History in America and took classes in high school to understand wealth inequality. I wanted to come to Oberlin to build on this and be around people who understood my experiences, even though they might not have lived them. For the most part, I was right. Through the Posse scholarship program that I am a part of, I met other scholars who worked on issues that I wanted to learn more about. I also met other Oberlin students who were doing social justice work on racism, sexism, and classism. However, I wasn't in the same spaces with these amazing people all the time.

My first year at Oberlin, I was surrounded by a lot of students who were unaware of their own prejudices. I experienced a lot of micro-aggressions, which are small instances of someone being prejudiced towards you. I also noticed a lot of misappropriation of my culture. I experienced a lot of people having guilt about slavery, which I understand is a step of acknowledging an issue--but these instances were taking the issue of racism and internalizing it to distract the conversation. I felt silenced a lot of times when I would challenge prejudices within those around me. There were plenty of times when I felt like I was not wanted because of who I am and the support I thought I had was not there.

Oberlin advertises itself to be a liberal campus that is accepting of all identities. When I first decided to come to this campus, I had faith in that idea. Oberlin has history to support its progressive ideologies. However, that is history. In my experience, Oberlin is a great place for some marginalized groups but is a toxic environment for others. The last week of November 2014, after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson--the police office who murdered Mike Brown--reinforced my experience. The political landscape of campus was very tense. Black students on campus, especially sophomores and freshmen, were ambushed with the amount of ignorance about police brutality in the Black community.

The trauma that Black students face in the real world went unnoticed by Oberlin's administration. Our cries for support were met by a small amount of faculty and staff. Anonymously, other Oberlin students dismissed what happened to Mike Brown and Eric Garner. From me, I did not feel safe on campus. I felt the need to hide. I felt drained.

When I was a senior in high school, I thought that Oberlin was the perfect place to be because of its raving reviews of being an open and accepting place. I bragged to my friends about how important Oberlin was in the abolitionist movement. I talked to my parents about how Oberlin was one of the stops in the notorious Underground Railroad during slavery. I talked to my teachers in private about the Anti-Vietnam War Movement of the 1970s, that Oberlin Students were a part of. I believed that students who applied to Oberlin wanted to be a part of this legacy and add to it. I know that my beliefs at that time might seem naïve, but not to me. I understood that every student had a wide range of experiences--we grew up in different locations, we have different religious beliefs, we have different cultural values; to simply put it, we had our differences. However, I thought that in selecting Oberlin, students would be willing to learn more about themselves as well as others and working together to combat oppression. I was quickly awakened from my dream.

Oberlin has used its history as a marketing strategy to attract students. Oberlin's activism is very selective and only certain issues are privileged while others are silenced, for example race relations. There are some students who wanted to come to Oberlin just because it is a high-ranking private liberal arts college, not because of its history in social justice. What Oberlin was in the past is nothing more than a business now. We need to find a way back to the old Oberlin. I believe that writing about my experiences it will provide prospective students insight to Oberlin's issues, current students will have a space to openly critique campus, and it will help me heal.

I do not want to completely discredit Oberlin. By talking to students of color at other predominately white institutions, I realize that it could be much worse. However, I think it's important to talk about how to Oberlin can get better and set an example for other institutions of higher education. Prospective students I do not want you to be afraid of applying to Oberlin because of my views. Nevertheless, I want to arm you with information for when you come to campus. I hope that my honesty will keep you from being blindsided once on campus.

Prospective students, I would love to answer any questions that you have for me or you can suggest to me what issues you are concerned with on campus. I will do my best to answer every question. For the questions that I can't address, I will seek advice from other students within the community, whom I have learn many things from. Here are some ideas of topics to help guide you:

  • Rape Culture at Oberlin
  • Mental Health Services on campus
  • Queer/Trans* identities and finding support
  • Being a person of color on campus
  • Finding who you are as a woman
  • Political Ideologies
  • Being a Low-Income student

Issues in the world change the mood of campus. It is in your best interest to try to keep up with what's happening in the news. Here are some websites that you might find interesting:

Have a Great Day.

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