Why Black Pain Is Not “Pastiche”

CW: PTSD, slavery, confinement, police surveillance

I write this now almost a month out from the day my friends and I ended our occupation of Duke’s administrative building, spurred by the gross exploitation of Black and Brown labor on campus, as well as the hit-and-run committed by our Executive Vice President two years ago, which was handled poorly and didn’t give justice to the Black woman worker who was hit. Since then, we have returned to our lives, continued to work on holding Duke accountable for the institutional racist, sexist, cis-sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, misogynistic, and elitist violence it enacts on everyone in the community.

However, even returning to class has been one of the most difficult things I have had to face. No, not because of the classwork, though being physically unable to get to class or even see professors is really limiting. It’s because coming back from something like this, something so monumental, now causes the weirdest interactions with both my classmates and professors.

There is a reason I chose to come to Duke, and despite the many people questioning me, I am proud to be here. As the daughter of parents who didn’t really go the university route in the conventional sense, I am the first of my family to actually be at a place like Duke, and it took an incredulous amount of hard work. I deserve to be here, and I am enjoying most of my experiences.

But my good experiences do not invalidate the bad. In the past semesters, I have encountered extremely anti-black and racists classmates and professors, violent “jokes”, and the realities of being a student who comes from a low-income neighborhood. It’s not a sob story, nor is this specifically unique to me. This is college, and this type of stuff has been going on ever since they decided to “integrate” these institutions.

For my sophomore year, I spent most of the time working on fighting what Duke continues to uphold while praising itself as a place for students to thrive and make a difference for the better. Rallies, doing jail support, making banners, helping out with teach-ins and workshops, going off campus and getting involved with other schools, speaking out about what needs to be changed, and more. These are all acts of resistance, and I appreciate them as such. But it’s the small acts of resistance that I feel are the most important at times.

I made the piece above as my final project for my Short Audio Documentary class, which I took to further myself in my certificate of Policy in Journalism and Media Studies. As a creative person, I find myself dabbling in different mediums of media and love making videos, writing, dancing, playing music, and more. I enjoyed this class for the most part, and this final project is something I’m very proud of. I think the thing that I will remember the most about this piece is not what I said, even though it’s still very powerful and is a testament to what has been happening. What I will remember the most about this project is my interaction with my professor.

Let me first disclaim this story by saying that I don’t consider this professor terrible. I actually found him very helpful and knowledgeable when it comes to audio documentary. But when it comes to race and addressing systemic issues, I don’t really think he has the grasp of having students of color being honest, which may be a deeper critique of journalism studies at colleges and universities.

When I went to office hours to go through a listen of the rough draft of the professor, he told me that the piece was powerful. The word he specifically used was “pastiche”, which I didn’t quite understand. This piece is probably one of the most personal and painful things to put out for a class, and his thoughts were that it imitated a different style.

When we submit a piece for the class, we are required to submit a general description, usually a couple of sentences at most. Since my piece required a lot of background information, we both agreed that the description should be a little longer. Here is what I originally wrote and sent to my professor, with the request that he send me back any edits I might need to make:

In 2014, Duke University’s Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III committed  a crime  on campus when he hit a black Parking and Transportation Services worker and drove away from the scene. Since then, there has been very little investigation about the altercation, as well as the firing of fellow workers who stood up for Ms. Shelvia Underwood, the attendant who was hit.
Duke has a long history of holding space for worker discrimination, grossly exploiting the labor of the mainly black and brown workers.
In April of 2016, nine students held a sit-in at the Allen administrative building on Duke’s campus to demand not only the reparations for the incident of 2014, but for better workers’ rights for all on campus. In this piece, Jazmynne Williams, one of the occupiers, shares her thoughts from inside the building, along with Franciscus Akins, a current PTS worker, who was in the public space of Able-ville, a tent-community held in solidarity with the protesters, during the occupation.

I was busy yesterday, so I hadn’t had to really check my email, but I assumed I would wake up to some grammatical errors that needed to be changed. Instead, I woke up to this email:

Yes, I need you to adjust the intro. I understand that your piece is from your perspective, but the intro should be more neutral. Some of what you’re saying would be disputed, such as “committed a crime,” and “holding space for worker discrimination.” (Not sure what that last phrase, “holding space for,” means, either. Do you mean “tolerated” or “practiced”?) So if you want to include language like that you need to attribute it as someone’s opinion — i.e., “committed what some consider a crime….” And is reparations the right word, or maybe accountability? 

This email annoyed me in multiple ways:

  1. How do you make real life “more neutral”? How exactly do you make systemic and institutional violence on people of color “neutral”? Please explain, white man.
  2. I refuse to sugar coat that Duke’s Executive Vice President committed the crime of hit and run. Whether it’s considered a class 1 misdemeanor or a class H felony isn’t clear, but per the state laws of North Carolina, no one can dispute that it’s a crime.
  3. I addressed the notion of taking up space in my piece, but I’ll elaborate. Holding space is a terminology used to humanize marginalized bodies by emphasizing that they are, indeed,  tangible bodies, and things that occur to them are tangible and have an actual impact. Also, I refuse to use “practiced” or “tolerated”, especially since both of those are passive and imply that is is not still occurring today.
  4. I’m hella tired of explaining pedagogy of marginalized people to white people. Stop making me do your education labor.
  5. This isn’t an opinion. Just because it’s not your truth doesn’t mean it’s not a truth. Also, please explain to me from which part of my life I need to cite for empirical evidence.
  6. Hell yes, reparations is the correct word, and I refuse to make it sound nice. A black working class woman was hit by our Executive Vice President, a wealthy white man, and as a result, she needed to seek medical care and legal assistance because it limited her work, and because it was a crime that was neglected by the university. Accountability is implied in reparations. Also, what is it with white people not wanting to apply the term “reparations” to black people? Hmmm….

Because this is my grade, I did agree to change some of the language of my description. Let me know what you think.

In 2014, Duke University’s Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III committed what is considered a crime (by the state of North Carolina) on campus when he hit a black Parking and Transportation Services worker and drove away from the scene. Since then, there has been very little investigation about the altercation, as well as the firing of fellow workers who stood up for Ms. Shelvia Underwood, the attendant who was hit.
Duke has a long history of holding space for worker discrimination, grossly exploiting the labor of the mainly black and brown workers.
In April of 2016, nine students held a sit-in at the Allen administrative building on Duke’s campus to demand not only the reparations for the incident of 2014, but for better workers’ rights for all on campus. In this piece, Jazmynne Williams, one of the occupiers, shares her thoughts from inside the building, along with Franciscus Akins, a current PTS worker, who was in the public space of Able-ville, a tent-community held in solidarity with the protesters, during the occupation.

 

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The Day We Took Over the Streets

I watched as they recorded, took pictures, and held not one care in the world about what happened to us in this moment, or after. One reporter even said that we should not assume that she’s trying to cause any harm because she’s been there for 12 hours and gets paid the same amount of money every day.

I say this, not to glamorize the night we took over the streets, but to document the fact that even the media, who we have been trained to believe is going to be unbiased and fair, usually have such a level of entitlement that reduces us to simple bodies.

This is why I document everything, no matter how mundane it may seem. It’s my truth, and it’s raw and real.

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Micky Bee, from Atlanta, GA, stands with fists raised while chained group of queer and trans folx are being arrested by the police

The passing of HB2 was not surprising, however it was a blow. Having relocated to North Carolina for college, I have been working extremely hard to put my energy toward making this state and country a place where we can live without feeling the threat of being attacked, where we can live with the feeling of freedom, the freedom they claim is given to everyone in America.

That day we took over the street, we were more than angry and sad and radical, but mainstream media never tells you that. We were light, we were love, we were pain, we were magic. We took risk, we risked lives, we dances, we laughed, we cried, we hugged, we stopped, we yelled, we sat, we stood, we walked, we ran. We pushed our way onto the street, knowing that we would be met by the aggressive force of the Raleigh police that claimed to be protect us. We knew that at any moment, we could become another body, taken by police moment. And in those moments, it wasn’t that we didn’t care about any of that. Rather, we cared so much, we knew that this is what we needed to do.

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A person with a troubled expression on their face, holding a sign that reads “Not Gay as in ‘Happy’ But Queer as in Fuck You” in all caps.

I never woke up and decide that I was going to be what they called radical. Nor have I ever woken up and decided to actively take time out of my day and be “liberal.” Contrary to what media tells you, that’s not how this works. My college career has definitely affected me, guiding me toward what I know I need to do. This work will not kill me, at least not by my will.

My friends risked their lives that night, by performance a great act of civil disobedience. My heart shattered into a million pieces as they got loaded into a van that said “Prisoner Transport” in big, bold letters, and being scared that they wouldn’t make it out of the van, or that they would never step out of the jail. Thankfully that didn’t happen, but it’s terrible when you know there was never a guarantee.

My mother says I do the most, and I have to disagree. Exactly how does one do the most in this situation, especially when they find themselves actively being disregarded by the government that we all expect to be there for us? How much screaming do I have to do to “do the most”? How many times do I have to be rejected from using the bathroom, as my friends and I were that night? How much pain do I have to harbor to “have the most, do the most”?

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Trans activist Holden Cession reading the statement created in response to House Bill 2, surround by others at the event.

I cannot ask everyone to do what I do, as I know that it takes a lot to go and take over the street outside the state governor’s mansion. I know that my capability to show up in that capacity is a privilege. But I also recognize that no matter how much I do, it can never truly be “the most”. My work will never be finished.

This house bill was not just about the ability to pee in the public bathroom. It was about the ability to walk around this state without being turned away because of my gender identity and sexuality. It was about all those students still in grade school who must now be terrified, because their school offers them no protection for having a different sexuality or gender identity than the ones traditionally given to people. It was about knowing that no matter how hard we try, that even if we did try to be “good, docile citizens”, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because we would never be able to be seen as human.

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The chained group of queer and trans folx in the middle of the circle created by those at the takeover

I wasn’t able to go the actual convening that preceded the passing, but some of my friends did, and knowing that they were silenced by our state government is a frustration that remains constantly on my mind. We cannot have a just government when our government refuses to listen to us.

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A banner that reads “No Pride for Some of Us Without Liberation for all of us- We Can’t Breathe; Black Lives Matter” In all caps.

I write all of this, not to make anyone feel guilty or to act as if I’m perfect. That’s not what this is about. I write this to tell everyone that this is what we are facing, what we are fighting against. And while we certainly have created beauty and joy out of this pain and outrage, we shouldn’t have to.

North Carolina has rolled back decades with this passing, and until we see change, we will not go home, we will continue to take back what you owe us, and we will not be quiet. We’re done with warnings and waiting around. We recognize our power now, and know that you are scared. We may not be moved, but you will.

-JW

Orange is the New Black and Brown

Every time I go to the Durham County Jail, I find myself not alone. There are many others who I find myself in company with. We walk, we dance, we sing, we chant. We get to the jail and I find myself making the most noise I ever had in a while. My smile meets my tears, because I realize that those people, the ones who come to the windows, don’t get to have the luxury of smiling, of dancing, of making noise. They have to adhere to the rules of their enslavement, as per the 13th amendment.

I can understand, how to a group of extremely privileged students, a party making light of the system of putting people back into legal slavery. After all, that’s just a technicality to them. Everyone is free these days, and we’re past racism, right?

My school is an extremely well known school for being very entitled, and getting everything they want. And I can’t exactly argue, when I know students go to their summer homes in the Hamptons and winter cabins in the Alps. It’s not really something that makes me feel any type of way, other than shocked that people actually hold that type of money and are so casual about it.

Whenever I tell my family and friends from home the latest Duke scandal, and the way the students so vehemently defend it, they’re so surprised. Even my younger sister, who has no context behind the mass incarceration system was very quick to denounce this party idea. “It’s not even a fun idea,” She told me over the phone. “Why would anyone want to have a party about jail?” And I couldn’t give her an answer, because I have no idea. But some people on campus do.

Their complaints generally work around the narrative of, “Well, I was just having fun. I don’t see how this actually connects to the system of mass incarceration. You’re making a big deal out of this.”

At the teach in we held, they didn’t come to listen, to actually discuss the connections. They came to laugh at the pain that we hold, to make it seem irrelevant. “Why don’t you go do this at the jail?” They said, accusatorily. But the thing they don’t want to hear, is that we do. I believe the majority of the time I leave campus, it is to the jail. I go, I listen, I stand in support. This isn’t an easy thing to do. A lot of these prisoners are in jail for inability to pay for tickets, for fees, for fines, many of which come from the extortion of these people, many of which are black and brown, because, in a society like this, we tax the poor and marginalized much more than we do the rich. These students, confused about how this connects, don’t realize that the money that they used to put together the cage they put their pledges in is the same money that is being saved from being used for the community. In addition, they refuse to acknowledge that that disposable fund they have comes from the privilege of being able to build and save money, to make money, while other populations were not only kept from doing that, but were contributing to that wealth without receiving any money.

Another thing that I honestly couldn’t understand was when one of the students in the crowd yelled at us “What is the harm in this party?” Over and over again. It surprised me how much more they got upset when someone said, “You wouldn’t have a Holocaust party, so why have this?” The anger was  astounding. People were saying that it was too much of a comparison, and that we were dramatizing this party, but how could you say that, when what we are doing to those who are truly incarcerated is legally slavery. American slavery, the type that people don’t want to discuss anymore, and say we’re past it. When we study the 13th through 15th amendment in school, they tell us that these were the amendments that enforced freedom for everyone. But they aren’t.

If you go to the jail, you can see them from the windows, banging, watching. Holding up the signs saying “HELP US”, wishing that they could get out too. I know that one of the questions was “What do we do when all the murderers and killers get released?” There are many ideas going around, and many believe that coming up with our standards for our own community might be helpful. I would be happy to brainstorm ideas. But I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t think putting people back into a system that we’re too ashamed to even teach properly is the right way to “punish” people.

These people are dehumanized in this system, malnourished, not wont to receive proper medical attention, which actually leads to death. They’re forced to solitary confinement, and sometimes, aren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom, something that many  argue would be a basic human right. Yet here we are, having to debate why your little prison party actually ties into a bigger context.

Like it was put by a very dear friend of mine the other day, “Y’all on some fuckshit.”

-JW

 

Increase in Durham County Jail Deaths Brings Community Together

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Members of Matthew McCain’s family lead the march from the Durham CCB Plaza to the Durham County Jail.

In the past year alone, there have been at least 3 people who have died in the custody of the Durham County Jail. The families of those dead have been facing many roadblocks when it comes to getting information on how it happened. The Durham County Jail refuses to release answers, prolonging their grief, and furthermore, highlighting the lack of care that the jail and Durham police holds toward our citizens.

The protest held on January 30th brought together organizers, activists, people from the community, and families of Matthew McCain and Dennis McMurray, two men who have died in the jail’s custody as of late.

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Group of protesters marching downtown Durham holding various banners and signs.

 

 

 

Once at the jail, many read the letters of the current inmates and made noise to let inmates know they supported them and that they were not forgotten.

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In addition, they listened to the accounts of people who have family members currently inside the jail, as well as the family members of Dennis McMurray and Matthew McCain.

The Inside Outside Alliance, along with the Durham Jail Investigation Team are demanding a community-led investigations of the public jails, to provide a better look at the situation, and to allow for the prisoners’ thoughts and voices to be heard.

-JW

*Permission to publish video and other footage was given and can be taken away at any time.

Recent Reflections

I’ve been taking a break from writing, not because I wanted to ignore this, but because I, much like others in this country, was spending a lot of time with my family. Coming back to Austin for a little while, I’ve come to surround myself around my support system, and lord knows I need them now more than ever. This year has definitely been one of the hardest years I have had to date, but when looking at my year, I know that I am very fortunate compared to others who have been immediately impacted by struggles. There are people who weren’t able to turn to their support team, people who won’t ever see their support team again, and it isn’t their fault.

My continuing journey to understand blackness has been very big this year, and I have come to a point where I feel like I will never finish this journey no matter how hard I try. I have also come to the point where I have accepted this, because I know that I am only human and am limited in that nature. But this year has also been about challenging thoughts I have had about myself and others as well as expanding myself past the narrowness of my mind. I have had many times where I have had to call out or in for someone, but there have been way more times this year where I have been the one who needed calling out or in. And I refuse to sugar coat it because I am a human, and am far from perfect, and I refuse to present myself as perfect. This year has given me life, but has also given me death and mourning, and this is what I need to get off my chest today.

When people look at me now compared to the beginning of the year, they would say that I’m stronger, wiser, more resilient, etc. And I’ll admit, I have definitely grown a lot in this short span of twelve months. I’ve worked to become a better student, worker, friend, sister, and daughter. My efforts have been noticed, and that’s certainly satisfying, but as I’ve reached the end of the year I find myself asking how I can do more. And I also find myself thinking a lot about time; how much has gone by, how quickly it’s going by, having it and wondering when I won’t anymore.

This year, I had a birthday, got older. I am one of the lucky ones. People like me don’t get these luxuries of aging and going to college and having your family available. I get to eat food, drink, laugh, and have fun, but there are so many others who don’t get to. Because their lives were destroyed by a system that our country and many of its citizens rely on so heavily: the police system.

For people of color, and especially black people, there has always been antagonization of overall blackness, and in addition, the criminalization of blackness. Black people, from the time they first reached this country, have been antagonized due to white supremacy amongst other things. With the ending of slavery came the opening of prisons and the beginning of mass incarceration of black people.

The police have been conditioned to believe that people of color are easy targets and are the primary victims of abuse and brutality by the police and those in the majority, white people, are conditioned to not only be okay with this but to continue to justify it. I tend to not fear the outright and blatant people, as least not as much, because at least I know where we stand. I tend to fear those who claim vehemently that these people deserved to die because cops are always right.

There’s probably going to be a part two to this, but I really need to focus on self-care right now.

-JW

Why People of Color Dislike Police

I’ve been taking a break from writing, not because I wanted to ignore this, but because I, much like others in this country, was spending a lot of time with my family. Coming back to Austin for a little while, I’ve come to surround myself around my support system, and lord knows I need them now more than ever. This year has definitely been one of the hardest years I have had to date, but when looking at my year, I know that I am very fortunate compared to others who have been immediately impacted by struggles. There are people who weren’t able to turn to their support team, people who won’t ever see their support team again, and it isn’t their fault.

My continuing journey to understand blackness has been very big this year, and I have come to a point where I feel like I will never finish this journey no matter how hard I try. I have also come to the point where I have accepted this, because I know that I am only human and am limited in that nature. But this year has also been about challenging thoughts I have had about myself and others as well as expanding myself past the narrowness of my mind. I have had many times where I have had to call out or in for someone, but there have been way more times this year where I have been the one who needed calling out or in. And I refuse to sugar coat it because I am a human, and am far from perfect, and I refuse to present myself as perfect. This year has given me life, but has also given me death and mourning, and this is what I need to get off my chest today.

When people look at me now compared to the beginning of the year, they would say that I’m stronger, wiser, more resilient, etc. And I’ll admit, I have definitely grown a lot in this short span of twelve months. I’ve worked to become a better student, worker, friend, sister, and daughter. My efforts have been noticed, and that’s certainly satisfying, but as I’ve reached the end of the year I find myself asking how I can do more. And I also find myself thinking a lot about time; how much has gone by, how quickly it’s going by, having it and wondering when I won’t anymore.

This year, I had a birthday, got older. I am one of the lucky ones. People like me don’t get these luxuries of aging and going to college and having your family available. I get to eat food, drink, laugh, and have fun, but there are so many others who don’t get to. Because their lives were destroyed by a system that our country and many of its citizens rely on so heavily: the police system.

For people of color, and especially black people, there has always been antagonization of overall blackness, and in addition, the criminalization of blackness. Black people, from the time they first reached this country, have been antagonized due to white supremacy amongst other things. With the ending of slavery came the opening of prisons and the beginning of mass incarceration of black people.

The police have been conditioned to believe that people of color are easy targets and are the primary victims of abuse and brutality by the police and those in the majority, white people, are conditioned to not only be okay with this but to continue to justify it. I tend to not fear the outright and blatant people, as least not as much, because at least I know where we stand. I tend to fear those who claim vehemently that these people deserved to die because cops are always right.

There’s probably going to be a part two to this, but I really need to focus on self-care right now.

-JWv

The Difference between Integration and Desegregation at Colleges and Universities

After the conclusion of my third semester at Duke, it has come to my attention that there are many things that even the best education does not properly or even at all. Concepts, concrete events, whole movements of Othered people (totally throwing some shade). Something that I feel needs to be addressed is the progress of our country and just how far we have come from the time of Jim Crow and its gruesome history. The Civil Rights movement has been and continues to be whitewashed in history due to its resistance to Eurocentric standards and way of life. In class, we learn about how the state of our country is improving constantly, some have even gone as far to say that we have reached a post-racial status. But with Black Lives Matter, movements fighting for the rights of the indigenous people, the rejecting of refugees, college protests, and grotesque police brutality, just how far have we moved from the times of Jim Crow and ‘Whites Only’. Fountain signs?

If you’re a minority and you’ve ever called out some type of racism, no doubt that you’ve heard “well I have __ friends, so I can’t be racist.” Or you’ve gotten the lecture about how this is 2015, not 1915. Or, if you’re in college, especially a predominantly white institution like me, you’ve gotten the whole “well, you came here, so this place / I / my thoughts can’t possibly be racist.” I feel like I’ve spent so much time trying to explain why something is racist or offensive that I haven’t had near as much time to explain how to change it. And while I do understand that picking and choosing your battles are key, there is a need to react with some form of patience, depending on the situation.

At Duke, and other colleges and universities across the nation, they are both bound by the public and by the students. They need for the public to feed into the prestige, but it also needs these students to continue to have that social clout. They also owe it to the donors and financial backers who help fund these institutions. So when it comes to recruiting students and financial contributors, they work to appeal to them in every possible way. One of the most effective methods is to promote diversity and to make it known that they work toward encompassing a holistic approach of the world. But just how diverse have they gotten, and where does integration fit in?

This is such a big topic, and I could go on for a while, but for now, I want to address the populations of people of color and marginalized people at these institutions and where they fit into environments. When those students at Mizzou who protested made national news we got the idea that this was the first time they had stood up against the ineffectiveness of their President, and we continued to believe that as other schools stood up. But in actuality, there’s been struggle long before the time of smartphones and Twitter. The difference now is that with the increase of the public view and advancement of technology, we have more opportunity to publicly critique and judge.

Marginalized students come on to campus expecting to find a community that overall accepts them and welcomes them as they go through the next phase in their lives. Instead, what they get is emotional, and sometimes physical trauma as well as fatigue. At schools like Duke and Yale, most of the students and faculty are white. And what isn’t told to the marginalized students is what is expected of them upon arrival. They are expected to unpack their painful experiences at the expense of their classmates and professors learning more. These students are the diversity, but are expected to do the work of educating these students and faculty about their history, struggle, culture, and more. And while that would make for a perfect opportunity for cultural exchange, which would actually help with diversity, it leads to white validation, which puts those who are white at an advantage.

These institutions were never meant for these marginalized students to be there. They were built to educate those who fit into the sphere of whiteness, to give them opportunities that would advance them further than those who are marginalized. These institutions are built on the wealth and bodies of those people, yet they were created so that they could figure out ways to further marginalize them, while they continue to benefit.

After Brown v. Board of Education, schools began welcoming more and more students of color, but not without reluctance. There were many sit-ins and protests for basic rights, such as designated spaces for them like living areas and buildings. And we have seen recently, these struggles are still ongoing. There have been many instances in which students have been questioned by campus security as to whether they are trespassing, like a recent incident with a recent grad student on Duke’s Perkins Library, or they have been severely harmed in proximity to campus, like Martese Johnson. When students face macro aggressions on campus, these colleges and universities tend to turn away from the students’ voices and ignore the fact that there are students that feel unsafe.

We have reached a point where you can go onto most campuses and see faces from different countries and backgrounds, but that’s a superficial way of determining whether we have reached a state of integration. Integration means the combining of different things into a whole, and that is not where we’re at yet by far. We have desegregated, brought two groups together, but these groups are not merged together, simply due to the inherent nature of these institutions. Without making any changes to the way education is done, or the way you center the students and faculty, you can’t expect students to feel as one. Perhaps there isn’t an easy way to fix this problem, but by expecting those who are marginalized to fix a problem that they did not create, it only perpetuates the issues.

-JW

Duke Sophomore Year Semester Reflections

Hey everyone! I know it’s been awhile, but I need to give an update. I just finished my third semester of Duke, so I am now going into my second semester of sophomore year. First and foremost, I would like to say that when I got into Duke, and especially this time last year, I did not expect to be here this long. I honestly thought that this was some big fluke and that people were finally going to realize that I am a complete imposter. But this semester, academically, I’ve been alright. I think that it’s more than one factor, but it’s been good. But that’s not to say that there haven’t been some things I have had to struggle with. Lord, so many things… Because this is an update, and I do want to give a holistic approach to my experience, I’m going to break this down to a few categories.

  • Friendships: This has definitely been a different year than last year. I’m now more used to Duke, and I’ve gotten to know some different people. I have also learned that you aren’t going to vibe with everyone, and that’s okay. I am naturally a people pleaser, so I’m always trying to say yes to everyone and everything, and I can’t be everywhere at once; it just isn’t realistic. I’ve learned that some of these people are genuine, and I can talk to them and expect them to be there, but honestly, there are going to be some superficial friends. And you don’t have to be genuine friends with everyone. You just have to learn how to discern what type of friend that person is. There are friends I have for going out, friends I have for staying in, friends I have that will help me dismantle various forms of oppression. I have friends in every category. You don’t need to have one group of friends for everyone.
  • Personal Relationships: I am not going to talk too much about my relationship status, because I’m not that type of person, and that’s just in general. I’m not the type of person to make sweet and cutesy Facebook posts, and I’m not the type of girl who needs to be by their partner at all times. I am a busy person. I’m going to let my partner do what they need to do, and I’ll do what I need to do, and we’ll come together, and we’ll come together when we need to. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially since I’m a college student who works part time and is always trying to find a side gig. My school and personal life are something I value, in addition to my independence. I’ve been independent from my parents since I was 17, and to date, I put myself through school and pay my own bills and all that jazz. I like being on my own, but I also like having personal relationships. However, not everyone is like that. Relationships are going to be different depending on the person, and I shouldn’t worry about those who are in different places, nor should I worry about those who can’t keep up with me. I don’t have many standards, but I shouldn’t have to lower the ones that I do because “I can never get a partner that could possibly meet them.” My standards are standards for a reason, and there’s always going to be someone who can keep up with me, and I’m not going to give up because it takes longer to get to that person.
  • Academics: Academically, coming to Duke, I thought I was not at the mental or educational capacity to keep up with this school. My grades were certainly nowhere near what I was used to, I would come back from class and break down, and I always felt like I wasn’t going to make it. I have had many thoughts of transferring or dropping out, to the part where I was looking for different schools. This semester, I felt generally good. I kept waiting for the intense academic burnout that I had last year, but it didn’t come. I liked going to (most) of my classes, and I enjoyed speaking up and participating. I felt like I was good in my classes, and that motivated me to keep going. Now, here I am, already finished with finals, not because I slacked off and turned in crap, but because I pushed through and worked hard so that I wouldn’t come back to see my family with classwork still looming over my head. Last year I felt like there was one way to make a lot of money, and now, I just want to figure out how to make money doing things that I love. It may take some time, but I’m going to take advantage of the time I’m in college to get myself together. I may not be the richest person, but I want to be happy.
  • Activism: I don’t consider myself an activist, honestly, if you check out my other post I made recently, you will see why. But on campus I have definitely been viewed as one, and people want me to make appearances and promote things. It’s interesting, and weird, to be honest. I am not used to being the person that people look to for help. I do things because I feel moved to do it. My work is never enough in my opinion, so I’m always striving to do more. This blog and my vlog are different, but they both encompass the ways that Duke has changed me, as well as the way I do work. Having people revere me as some activist has no qualms about getting her hands dirty honestly scares me. I have no intention of becoming a martyr for any of the fights I take up. I just want for others, as well as me, to have a better quality of life, and to not be held back by things we cannot control. I have a passion for fighting for what’s right, and while this certainly didn’t start and will not end at Duke, being here has given me a privilege I did not have in the ghettos of Texas.
  • Family: Families are weird, but you only have one. I have definitely used my family for support, and my baby siblings have been my light and motivators when I worked late nights to make money. Being with my family has been key, and being without them at Duke has forced me to figure out different ways to interact. It may not be what I’m used to, but that’s what makes it so rewarding
  • Oppression at Duke: I think I’m going to make a video about this, so stay tuned, but I will address it briefly here. There has been a lot going on at Duke, and I started vlogging because I realized that I cannot trust the institution to properly document my experience. This school wasn’t made for me, therefore I need to figure out how to make it work for me. The university understands completely what needs to change, and they act as if they don’t, which has fueled even more issues. Duke is an academically amazing institution, but there are so many issues that need to be addressed.

I know that this isn’t everything, so I most likely will be posting a video to get more into detail. But here’s my life update, and now that I’m out of school, I should be able to post more.

-JW

White Terrorism is Not Simply “Bullying”

With all the things going on at Mizzou and Yale, it has come to my attention that people have no idea why the situation at hand is such a serious one, and through the emails sent by the professor, it is clear that the majority of these people who are in opposition are okay with this because it does not affect them. This is their privilege, and their lack of even attempting to understand the circumstances shows just how much work we need to put into this. These people are coming into positions of power and authority, and to have these authorities who refuse to understand the situation is a part of the problem.

I feel so lucky and thankful to be able to get to class feeling somewhat safe. At Mizzou, and I’m pretty sure this is happening to some degree at Yale, students are being threatened by racist white people and racist white terrorists and being told not to come to campus if they value their lives. Students are evacuating a campus that they have paid thousands of dollars of tuition to be there because they are seriously fearing their lives. As a result, there are students emailing their professors in hope that their education could still be saved despite this threat. Many professors (not all, because I have definitely seen the opposite happen as well) have been responding to their students saying that they will still conduct class and that they should attempt to work around the “bullying.” This is problematic in two ways, first in that it denotes the history and the seriousness of having the KKK being in the proximity of black students, and second, it denotes the impact of bullying and it does not give it the appropriate attention that it deserves.

Bullying in itself is a very serious issue that often goes addressed. Aside from the few talks had in grade school, we don’t talk about bullying in a concrete context. It is always vague, something that happens to that one girl who you used to know but don’t remember or whatever. It is also trivialized by people who claim that people need to “suck things up” or just “get over things”. Bullying is not something that is addressed in the adult realm, and a lot of people remain uneducated about what the effects are of being bullied or bullying. Bullying affects many people in our society, it extends further than just the limits of grade school. It can happen to people of all ages, and it can trigger  and start the development of many mental disorders. Bullying is not something that should be seen as something trivial. It is a major source for suicide in younger people and it also has decreased the amount of students actively involved in school. Being bullied is not something that everyone has the privilege of working past.

The KKK is a white domestic terrorist organization that was founded to uplift white supremacy. That is literally what they have aimed to achieve. That means that their mission is to benefit by hurting people of color and other social minorities. People have supported this hatred by attempting to claim that people are against the uplifting of whiteness in general and how offensive it is that white people cannot celebrate their culture. Besides the question of exactly what the culture is that that they are celebrating, people continue to ignore that white people are constantly celebrated. This is a eurocentric society and everything we do is based on the sphere of whiteness. Our education system was built on white people, our jobs, our places of living. LIterally everything we see in America is centered around having whiteness being valued over uplifting those who fit into the sphere of whiteness while pushing down anyone who can’t fit into the sphere.

The KKK was founded in 1866, the year after the Civil War ended. It now extends through most states, if not all at this point, and have inspired the creation of other skinhead groups. The KKK fears white genocide, and works at the active oppression of minorities and especially black people. The KKK has had a history of reorganizing and strengthening in times of social activism that promotes the uplifting of racial minorities. They have gone as far as bombing people’s homes, churches, jobs, and social places. In the past, they were known for hanging black people, and carrying a burning cross around areas where black and minority people stayed in hopes of scaring them and making them fear for their life. The KKK didn’t want for equality for minorities in the political and economic areas. They actively worked to make sure that these people could not be heard, thus making sure that they disrupted the already biased process of legislation so that people of color could not participate.

In this society, due to the whitewashing of history, many lack an overall memory of certain events. The terrorizing of black people by organizations by the KKK and white supremacists in general has long been prevalent in our American history. Yet today, who can truly say that they understand the significance of these Yik Yak threats, given the context?

What people don’t want to accept now is that the KKK is rebuilding as we speak as a response of the movements we have seen lately, particularly, the #BlackLivesMatter movement. They feel threatened because they genuinely believe that these movements are for the killing of white people in mass numbers, even though they have nothing to precedent that. In fact, they have been the ones who have promoted and anc actively worked towards the elimination of non white people because they consider these people a threat that needs to be eliminated. The irony of this is that when you look at history, you can see that these people of color occupied these spaces long before the country was founded, and white people committed genocide in order to claim the land, and then bring other people into the country to do the heavy labor of building the country’s foundation, off which they still make money from today, and not grant them any sort of credit nor retroactively provide some sort of reparation for the damage caused.

These students have gone through a lot in protesting to get their president to resign. It took a lot of work in order to organize and make this movement work, and it takes a lot of emotion and pain for students to be ready to do something like that. This was an amazing feat, and it showed people that even though it seems difficult, it can be done. The issue with this is that the students never should have had to go through all this just to have the a decent experience. These students are paying money and taking out loans in order to go to this school, and people are generally okay with them not only not feeling safe on campus, but they are genuinely fearing for their lives.

This is not just happening on Mizzou’s and Yale’s campuses. This is going on constantly across the U.S. and all over the world. People of color, despite being the most populous people in our country, are the most oppressed groups of people. They have to go through life knowing that they are meant for the background, and that they clearly not meant to be valued in society We are meant to promote institutions like these and provide funding for them, while also not making too many waves about how we feel on campus. Being at Duke has really given me a new perspective on things. It has allowed me to gain a better sense of what the elite thinks of those who are less fortunate. If it is one thing that people may not be able to notice outright is what your class is. I have been caught in so many conversations where people have said the most classist things while not realizing that I am one of those people who they are talking down to. And the amount of times people have been intersectionally classist and racist have been crazy. Not everyone realizes what they’re doing, in fact, most people do not realize what they are doing, because they have been hardwired to believe that this is okay.

Living in this society has been a struggle due to the overall ignorance of people. This isn’t necessarily always the fault of these people. One of the things I advocate for is the help of lower-income groups of minorities. These people often don’t have access to a better education, and many have no idea that they have opportunities that are available to them should they look for them. In addition, there are a lot of obstacles in the way for people of color and people who make less money. This situation is not an accident, as it was constructed years ago and has been upheld since through dog-whistle racism.

These threats need to be taken as seriously as the threats made on our country in the past. This is a threat against the safety of all people and we need to start having compassion for others for the sake of the continuance of our country.

-JW