UM’s Racial tension

. February 1, 2018.
dylangilbert

As an Ann Arbor native, I was reluctant to go to Michigan. I wanted to experience something new in college. My reluctance was often met with reassurance that the UM campus would feel like a whole different city.  Not fully believing that notion, I committed to attend Michigan. Now, with a semester under my belt, it has proven to be true, but not at all in the way I’d hoped. Ann Arbor is a relatively liberal and accepting community. It is by no means perfect, but it  does a fair job maintaining an environment that is diverse in race, sexuality, gender, and socioeconomic status. However, those attributes do not carry over to The University of Michigan.

Moments of fear

While Ann Arbor’s population is 8% African-American, the University of Michigan’s African-American population is 4.1% – a statistic I feel every day while on campus. I feel it when I am the only black person in my classes, and when there are only 5 of us in a 300-person lecture. Mostly, however, I feel it in the way students simply don’t know how to interact with me. In my first semester at UM, I found myself checking over my shoulder more than usual. I am not in Ann Arbor anymore and I feel genuinely unsafe. At my first football game, my friends and I asked a group of white male students if we could pet their dog. Their response to my blonde, blue-eyed friends was to gesture towards me, attempting to grab my hair and say, “If I can pet yours.”

On another occasion, in October, while walking to a friend’s dorm, two white males walked past me, no more than two feet away, and looked me up and down. The brunette asked his friend while gesturing toward me, “Would you hit?” While holding eye-contact with me, the friend laughed and said, “No man, way too dark.” In November, while dancing with my friends on a Saturday night, I was having fun and felt as though I could let my guard down, until I was approached by a Caucasian male who grabbed my waist in an attempt to dance with me. I declined politely, saying I just wanted to dance with my friends. He responded with a snarl, and said, “Fine I don’t even like n—ers anyway.”

An unequal experience

On occasions during three out of the four months of my first semester, I felt threatened and uncomfortable. As a black woman, I have experienced treatment like this before, but never so consistently in the place I have always called home. My fall semester has proven to me the reassurance I was fed about UM holds true. The university campus is not the same as the city I grew up in. In Ann Arbor, I felt relatively safe and valued as a black person. At UM, I don’t feel free to experience the exploration college is supposed to offer because I am always guarded. When a university limits black students to a mere 4% of the student body, it instills in that small number of us who were admitted a sense that we do not belong here and, based on my experiences, many white students maintain the same belief. At least in the present environment, my white peers and I are not afforded an equal college experience at UM. Whether we are studying in the library, tailgating at a frat, attending a football game, or going to a play, I, and people who look like me, bear the extra weight of feeling unsafe on campus.

Dylan Gilbert, Ann Arbor native and graduate of Pioneer High School, is a first-year student at The University of Michigan.

Trending

DIYpsi Champions Local Artists (and here’s a PLAYLIST)

DIYpsi Aug 18 & Aug 19 at ABC Microbrewery I’ve detected an increasing amount of positive energy generating from the independent arts community of Ypsilanti over the last several years, grassroots efforts that stoke a sense of pride and celebration of the local culture scene, from First Fridays and Bona Sera, to the Threads All

Eighth Grade—Navigating Middle School Without Filters

If you missed Eighth Grade at Cinetopia, it’s finally officially playing this week at The State! Eighth Grade is this generation’s Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, and Welcome To The Dollhouse. If you’ve wondered what adolescence in the digital age is like, this movie’s strength is capturing Generation Z middle school life—while remaining universal.

August 2018—Biz Buzz

We’re keeping on an eye on what’s happening in local business. Find out more here!

The Mountain—’Spinning Dot Children’s Theater Company’ Premieres Play on Immigration

When performing plays, actors use props, costumes and set pieces to immerse themselves in the story. Spinning Dot Theatre repertory company members Aya Aziz and Forrest Hejkal, who star in the North American premiere of Chelsea Woolley’s two-hander, The Mountain, had extra help preparing to portray children on a playground; they did some of their