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BC Ignites Speech: Sandra Dickson

CSON '13

Published: Friday, September 28, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

The following speech was given by Sandra Dickson, CSON '13, at BC Ignites on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012.  It has been edited for formatting purposes only.

As students of a Jesuit institution, we are strongly encouraged to be well rounded, to find meaning, and most importantly, to be more inquisitive. With these ideals instilled in us, we find ourselves realizing our passions enabling us to make change. When it comes to whether racism exists on campus, the answer is not so simple. Being at BC for three years has opened my eyes to many forms of discrimination, witnessed mostly by hearsay and in our campus newspapers.

While I haven’t personally experienced any overt racism in my years at BC, what I want to shed light on is the subtle situations that I constantly find my self in as an African-American on this campus. Situations that I think other AHANA students, especially black students, can identify with.  The many assumptions that have been made about me based on the color of my skin are endless. I just want to share with you all the different scenarios that I sometimes find myself involved in:

  • On my athletic ability or lack there of:
    • Are you here on athletic scholarship? Do you play a sport at BC?
  • On my physical appearance:
    • You’re really pretty for a black girl.
  • On my hair:
    • Oh wow, your hair! How did you do that?
    • Your hair grew so long all of a sudden?
    • Can I touch it?
  • On being from Ghana:
    • Oh you are from Ghana? I have a friend from insert another African country. Do you know him/her?
    • I’ve been to Africa? When I ask where, they can’t remember the country. It’s rather intriguing that people still don’t realize that Africa is a continent, not one country.
  • On the AHANA acronym: So is it exclusive? Am I allowed to join?

And for being the only or one of the few black people in my class, I always feel as though I have to represent for my race whenever the topic arises. Given all these instances, sometimes it makes it hard to distinguish between ignorance and discrimination. Because as college educated individuals, you would think that we would be able to wrap our heads around the complexities of what makes us different. If you are genuinely willing to learn about my culture, read about it. Ask me intelligible questions. If you have been at BC for at least a year, it is YOUR responsibility to know what the AHANA acronym is and what it represents because you interact with us everyday. Don’t blame ignorance for your faults. If you lack knowledge about another race, attend a few events and do research. Though I am sometimes more than willing to teach you about my race, it is simply not my responsibility to guide you. I do not have all the answers.

Please do not assume that these issues will end when you leave the BC bubble. For those who assume that racism doesn’t exist because we have a black president in the white house, I strongly urge you to take a few sociology classes. While I am aware that many people do not realize the racial implications of the scenarios that I have talked about, it is something I have struggled with all my life and felt the need to highlight and share with you all. But think of it this way, if I questioned a part of yourself that makes you you, how would you feel? So next time you want to touch my hair because it looks “cool,” how would you feel if I asked why your hair is so straight? Because it’s a part of you that you cannot help, right? You can never say you are the only one of your race in a lecture hall, in lower, on the bus, etc. So please, think before you speak next time and take some time to learn the facts.

As frustrating as it is to have the fingers pointed at me all the time, I also want to share some words of wisdom with my fellow AHANA students. How available are we making ourselves to others that genuinely want to learn about our culture? Are we sometimes a little too quick to pull the racist card? I understand that the constant probing can be annoying but what we need to realize is that without these conversations, nothing can change. Without these conversations, we are never going to bridge that gap that keeps us so far apart that we end up resenting each other. You cannot fight ignorance with ignorance. What we need to understand is that the AHANA community is part of the greater BC community. It is a part of a whole, not AHANA vs. BC. Remember that we are BC students who happen to be of AHANA descent. I would like to think that this issue is something that concerns all of us because, as we so proudly chant, “we are, BC!” So let us take time to involve ourselves in each other’s business or issues. In order to end the racial tension, we all need to reevaluate ourselves and start talking. Thank you! 

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