WHY WHITE SPACES CAN BE HARD FOR BLACK STUDENTS
Many black collegiate students often do not feel recognized or loved in predominantly white institutions. This may be the first time you have heard this. Don’t run past this statement. Read it again and let it permeate your thoughts. Many black collegiate students often do not feel recognized or loved in predominantly white institutions. Why should this matter to us? Well simply put, the BCM is a predominantly white institution. So it could even be said that many black collegiate students could feel unrecognized or unloved by the BCM. I want to take some time to point out why this could be the case. It is worth mentioning these are not the same concerns for all black people or in all white spaces, yet they are prominent enough to mention.
White spaces are hard for black students because…
Racism and injustice are not talked about much in BCM life. When was the last time we talked about it at one of our gatherings, your gospel appointments, or huddles, or ministry houses? The fact is this is a huge issue for black students as we are extremely hurt by this. It's like being a part of a college ministry that completely ignores the fact that you are a collegiate student. The silence can be just as hurtful as the racism itself. Maybe you should consider understanding more about the history of Southern Baptist Churches in regards to racism. Be warned, it is not a pretty picture. Then consider how we could address any unhealed wounds.
White privilege is often a term thrown around today, and I would be remiss if I did not talk about it with you all. Due to socioeconomic, educational, and political factors out of their control, many white students have comforts and privileges that many black students do not have. Most often these have to do with finances and college preparedness. Many black students here at the UofA have to work out of necessity as their parents can not contribute anything to their college fund or to the grocery fund. It is hard to take a mission trip if you do not have a community to support you financially and emotionally. Along with that privilege comes the opportunity to not to be concerned with issues of racism. The UofA recently had to be awakened to this truth as horrible stories tagged with #blackatuark revealed many unaddressed issues of their black students. This will make it hard for black students to join us even in simple things like going out to eat together.
Safety and representation is huge for black students in predominantly white institutions. Now many would assume our collegiate ministries are safe spaces for any student. That is not the case though. While BCM students may not seek to kill black students, things we say and do not say could be harmful to black students. Your words can do a world of hurt, even if you do not intend them to. I know this has been my experience in my years here at the BCM. It is a blind spot for our ministry. Usually in these spaces, many black students do not know who to come to as they do not see anyone else who is black and may be familiar with their struggles. Even worse, sometimes whites have not considered the concerns of black people to be legitimate or worth advocating for. Someone must represent and advocate for black students in leadership and be a voice for them. If not, black students will not stick or feel welcomed.
Loneliness is real with black students. Many black students can be welcomed in by primarily white institutes and be greeted warmly everytime, but still feel lonely in these spaces. Many of the reasons stem from what has already been said. Even black christians can feel lonely in our churches and ministries. Often it is hard to find people who are willing to even listen to their struggles as black students. Imagine the life of a missionary who is sent away from their family, culture, experience, and gospel community to serve in another that is nothing like that which they are familiar with. Usually they are forced to assimilate to their surroundings just to make friends. The corporate experience is vastly different in our worship and fellowship, and it is easy to feel like “the other”.
These are only a few things worth mentioning, and there are more I am sure. And make no mistake about it, addressing these issues in the life of the BCM will be costly, time consuming, and difficult. But that is what we are supposed to do. If we are to be those who proclaim the gospel to everyone, we must be those who work to cultivate a gospel community where everyone can grow. This means we must consider how we are to love our black brothers and sisters on campus.
I want to help us do this. That is why I am offering a series of Master Classes on Racial Reconciliation aimed to help be salt and light among black collegiate students. I encourage you to pray and join us for that time so that we may consider how we may stir up one another to love and to do good deeds and actually meet together with black students to encourage one another - Hebrews 10:24-25.