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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear Emory, Your Privilege Is Showing

My last semester at Emory, I took a Race, Gender, and Making Media (or something that sounds close to it) class. One of our assignments was to create a 10-minute video about any marginalized group on or off campus and tell us how they use media.

This project is like striking gold for a Black, female journalist.

Lucky for me, Cas Campbell was in the beginning stages of beginning the #BEU: Black at Emory University movement and I decided to look at the social media angle of it all. I interviewed about a dozen students (we needed at least 3 interviews) and got their perspective on what it's like being a student on Emory's campus.

Presentation day.

Our professor required each student to present their documentaries. At the end of each video, the class was required to ask the presenter a few questions about the film or topic, or just give their feedback.

Right before I presented, a freshman girl from Long Island presented her video on cyber bullying. Note, none of us were really film makers, so we didn't have high expectations for video quality but folks, her video was...shit. That's all I'll say. BUT, my classmates still gave her compliments and still asked her quite a few questions.

My turn.

Ya'll, my stomach was churning, my palms got sweaty. I felt like I was taking one small leap for man, one giiiiiiant leap for Black students at Emory. No pressure. I felt a sense of courage and excitement in educating a group of non-Black students about issues affecting Black students at Emory. I looked out at my peers and I couldn't wait to show them what I've been working so hard on.

Press play.

My film ended. I felt like I saw my first child walk across a graduation stage. Proud...until that moment. That undefinable, but undeniable moment of silence following, "Well class! Do you have any questions for Malaika?" I've heard that silence before. It was right after a presentation in my journalism class.

That silence made me cry in my mentor's office later that day. It's the same silence which makes the conversation about race tense in the first place. It's the same silence which shrouded campus after the Dooley Show incident. It's the same silence that made you "not understand why" there was a Troy Davis/Trayvon Martin/Eric Garner rally or protest happening while you were studying for that important final in the library. It's the same silence that declined to discipline a fraternity after their members demanded a student to "go back to India". It's the same silence students of color are met with when we attempt to voice our concerns to the Emory administration. A silence doused in blatant disregard, ignorance, and/or humiliation.

Want to know why these students are protesting against police brutality, police militarization, racial profiling, and bringing justice to young Black men and women?

Want to know why these students are joining the millions of protesters nationwide who are--quite literally--marching for their lives?

Want to know why these stories about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and Aiyana Jones piss us the fuck off?

Then Ask.

Ask us what it's like to be asked, "Do you go here?"
Ask us what it's like to be followed by the Emory Police.
Ask us if we think a joke about lynching and burning students who "don't belong here because of Affirmative Action" is funny.
Ask us what it's like to see the entire Emory community rally to support the Jewish community in their time of need...but not yours.
Ask us how easy it is to get into frat parties.
Ask us how it feels to be one of two Black people in your class.
Ask us how it feels when people say, "Just get over it."
Ask us how it feels to feel less supported by the university than some of your peers.

Ask us how it feels to be Black at Emory University. Ask us how it feels to be Black in White America.

But most of you won't. My classmates didn't ask me anything about my film. They didn't ask how long these incidents on campus were going on. They didn't tell me their thoughts on the problem. They didn't ask how I felt. They didn't ask me anything. And the beauty of it all was: they didn't have to. I mean, it didn't affect their final grade, but it would affect mine.

Anyway, you probably should get back to studying. Just wanted to tell you your White privilege is showing.



  1. From an Emory alumn - will you post your documentary please? I'd really like to see it and it seems like something that should be publicized.

    1. Sure! Just click on the two hyperlinks in my article and it should take you to the BEU site I made for the film.