Eyek Ntekim, a senior at American University and an executive board member of the African Students’ Organization, related an experience she had on AU’s campus. The situation she relates is not unique to any university. Across the country, schools of all types are experiencing issues surrounding the ongoing conversation about race, oftentimes experiencing difficulty between trivializing issues and having meaningful discussions about solutions. This is her personal account.
By Eyek Ntekim
I think what has been most frustrating throughout my time on campus has been the fact that many people within the AU community have overlooked and laughed off our complaints. The most offensive experience here at AU took place a few months ago.
In a course last semester, the topic of police brutality came up when we were discussing an incident that took place in Spring Valley, SC in which a student was handcuffed and assaulted. A student—who in the first place thought the incident was hilarious—said with a big smile on his face “Professor, what would you have done?” My professor immediately responded with, “I would have shot her,” and laughed. Not only did he laugh, but a majority of the class did. To them a child being assaulted was hilarious, yet these same people would be more than willing to fly to another country to express “outrage” over victims of assault in what they deem a “third world” country.
After hearing this exchange, I felt trapped and I also felt an immense amount of dread. I would have to say something. I would have to tell the professor why he was wrong and expect the same response that so many of my black classmates had received in the past. Of course I have to give credit to the dean of students from that department who immediately addressed the situation.
What I’m most disgusted at however is the fact that at AU, an environment has been created in which these incidents can take place. People feel comfortable making jokes about police brutality toward black bodies. What’s even more unsettling is the misuse of the term “marginalization.” According to certain political minorities, they are marginalized because not many people agree with their ideologies. It’s disheartening to see how a systemic issue has been simplified by a few overly sensitive and extremely uninformed 20-something-year-olds.
It hasn’t been all bad though; having been here for four years, I’ve seen with my own eyes the changes that have been made. Many people within the AU faculty, but most importantly, the student body, have fought to make changes on this campus and to make it that much more bearable, and for that I am and will always be grateful.