@blackatrwu Instagram account prompts conversation among students, alumni and parents

Emma Bartlett, Arts and Culture Editor

In late June, RWU alumni were inspired to create an Instagram dedicated to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) students, alumni and family members. The page invited individuals to share their experiences with racism, microaggressions and oppression at the university. The original idea came from students at The Brearley School in New York City who started the [email protected] movement. The alumni creators wanted BIPOC students to know they aren’t alone and together they would keep fighting for change.

“There is this stigma that RWU is this amazing and happy place. That all students have so much Hawk pride. If that is true, take a moment to look back on the number of BIPOC students that return for class reunions,” said those in charge of the Black at RWU account.

Those who created the account wanted a place where current students could read other people’s stories and realize they weren’t the only ones going through this. A lot of BIPOC students feel isolated in their experiences and knowing that other people in their community have been through similar situations can be relieving.

“Students have, in many ways, shut down and have stopped telling their experiences because real help doesn’t follow. Students are often brushed off, ignored and given false hope to their problems being solved. This isn’t to say all BIPOC students feel this way, but too many do,” those in charge of the Black at RWU account said.

Not having real help does a disservice to students, especially for those who take the bold step to reach out.

“A handful of students and I have reported an incident of racism before, but that resulted in us getting punished rather than the student who was making these harmful remarks,” said junior Amy Martin.

This isn’t to say BIPOC individuals don’t enjoy campus life and the relations they have, but the moments of injustice these students face tend to outweigh the happier college moments.

Black at RWU has received an overwhelming number of responses from students, alumni and family members. The responses span from people sharing stories, venting and encouraging Black at RWU to continue what they’re doing. Having individuals share their stories with the account has been an honor and keeps the creators motivated and empowered. Students are also seeing it as an important resource.

“It kind of made me feel like there’s more support around. If I needed to, I can talk to someone who runs the account — even if it is anonymous,” said sophomore Emily Grande.

The Black at RWU creators hope non-BIPOC readers will not only take the time to read their experiences but more importantly reflect and learn from them. They want people to evaluate their actions and recognize ways they have been maintaining anti-blackness on campus.

“While I knew that there were problems of racism on campus, after reading through most of the posts on the account, there was much more happening than I realized,” Martin said.

The account isn’t meant to bash the school but to change the tide in how people’s words and actions discriminate against others. The account has already sought to make amendments within the school and has gotten several approved for the law community. The word plantations will not be printed on future degrees and a new mandatory class exploring how the law was created through white supremacy will be introduced in spring of 2021. Other demands are still in the works, but all are steps in the right direction.

“We cannot move forward as a community if everyone is not able to acknowledge their faults and work hard to improve,” those in charge of the Black at RWU account said.