Black students at the University of Michigan are describing their college experience at the prestigious Ann Arbor institution with one provocative word: Racism. “Our list of demands came out of a tense racial climate that is being experienced not only at Michigan, but at college campuses around the United States,” Tyrell Collier, the president of the Black Student Union, told

“I think we’re in a period where universities are lacking in their ability to foster a sense of inclusion on campuses,” said Collier, a senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan, majoring in sociology and African-American studies. “I don’t think they are doing enough to promote interaction between people of different races and different cultural backgrounds.”

It’s unfortunate that 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on skin color, black students who are enrolled at the University of Michigan — and other predominantly white colleges in America — need what Collier describes as “tough skin.” Collier and other black students at the University of Michigan make up 5% of some 28,000 undergraduate students.

“What we’ve been talking about the most is availability of scholarships for African-American students, as well as further recruitment efforts in metropolitan areas that have a high population of African-American students,” Collier told reporters.

Black students started a campaign called “Being Black at The University of Michigan,” (#BBUM). According to USA Today, when Collier asked black students to tweet about what it’s like being black at the University of Michigan, there were thousands of responses that characterized the black experience on campus.

–“Dealing with the irony of being the only black person in a class where the prof says it’s easier for black folks to get admitted.”

–“#BBUM is NOT raising your hand in class because you do not want to be THAT black person who just doesn’t get it”

–“U can’t simply strategically place a few colorful faces on a pamphlet & call urself a diverse instit #BBUM”

–“having to be a ‘know it all’ in order to receive full credit on assignments b/c your peers second-guess all of your answers”

–“that first class when black culture becomes the topic and you suddenly become the voice of all black people”

–“Are you from Detroit? What sport do you play?”

“We just wanted to bring awareness to things that black students go through, day to day,” Collier told USA Today. Students met recently with college officials to demand more funding for a new multicultural center to provide affordable housing for students who are financially disadvantaged. Collier also demanded that college officials increase enrollments at Michigan by 10 percent.

Collier is not alone. Black college students across the country are reporting racist incidents and are meeting with college officials to complain about a wave of discriminatory actions targeting African-American students.

In January, for example, a white fraternity at Arizona State University sponsored a party over the Martin Luther King holiday that showed white students wearing baggy pants and posing with cups made from hollowed-out watermelons.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a student used the N-word during a committee hearing in which he opposed a resolution encouraging student representatives not to use derogatory language in everyday speech.

And a San Jose State University, three white students were charged with hate crimes, including calling their black roommate derogatory names, writing racial epithets on whiteboards in their suite, and, at one point, hanging a bicycle lock around his neck.

Meanwhile, at the University of Michigan, President Mary Sue Coleman says she understands the concerns expressed from black students.

“We hear loud and clear that students of color feel isolated and marginalized and that our frequently declared ‘commitment to diversity’ is perceived as disingenuous,” Coleman told reporters.

I’m glad Coleman says she gets it, but now what? What do you think?

(Photo: University of Michigan Black Student Union Facebook page)

13 thoughts on “ANALYSIS: Black College Students Describe Tense Racial Climate

  1. Personally I attended an HBCU so education was the primary focus of what we were to achieve. Thankfully I have also learned that ignorance often begins in the home and learning cultural differences and tolerance is just as important especially when in college and in the work place for the betterment and evolution of everyone involved.

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  3. Honestly on said:

    Cave n!@@ers are inherently depraved and mindless racist. These mayonnaise monkeys should have never been let out of the caves of Europe.

  4. bill b. on said:

    we all must understand…..race relations have be come very angry since we elected Pres.Obama….the racist right wing and the media has done everything they could to make white folks angry and mad about everything that are related to people of color….from voting rights to working on the job…..FOX NEWS has made it their business to put out every racist thing you can think of too make whites HATE blacks and people of color since 2009

    • newme on said:

      President Obama’s historic election TWICE has only pulled the blanket off of what was covered up and not dealt with. These willfully, ignorant groups never thought they’d see the day this would happen, and now they feel threatened. His being President not only symbolizes a new era in this country, but it also symbolizes the reality that America is becoming Blacker and Browner, and that people are beginning to live their lives happily regardless of sexual orientation and who they love, and those who have an antiquated mindset can’t handle it because they are losing the ‘control’ that they know was ill-gotten. You’d act out too if you felt that you were about to become the minority and have to face the possibility of becoming a ‘muted’ group, as has been done for centuries in a country whose foundation was built on racial hatred.

  5. Sadly, the situation at UM also applies to staff (especially black males). I previously worked at the Ross School of Business and the Law School, and the hostility by white coworkers was blatant. During my first week working at the business school, a coworker used the word wiggers in front of me during a trivial conversation with another coworker. For anyone interested in knowing more about the treatment of black male staff at UM, please see the book “Journeys Inside My Shadow” (Xlibris) in which I provide more examples.

  6. iann11 on said:

    After reading sooooo many articles about racial issues lately, I’m inclined to believe we’re going to destroy ourselves because of this issue alone. Why in the year 2014, we as the human race cannot rise above all of this HATRED? This is so very sad and disheartening. Why is it that we cannot let this issue that has divided people forever go? Why can’t we accept others that are different than us, and celebrate everyone’s differences? Why can’t we realize that by focusing soooooo much on someones race, that we really forget how to truly live and how to truly love each other. This is not what the Creator had in mind when he formed the human race, and we should really be ashamed of our behavior!

  7. tewdeeq on said:

    This is beginning to sound more and more like returning to the Jim Crow era when they had the signs up. What they are feeling is the same, just the Jim Crow signs have been taken down.

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