By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer
Minority students spoke about adversity they experience at Baylor at an educational sit-in attended by around 100 students, faculty and staff on Wednesday evening at Moody Memorial Library.
Port Arthur senior Tarshyana Hall and Kansas City, Mo., sophomore Victoria Bingaman planned the event in response to BUPD being called on a group of Black students on Jan. 27 at Moody due to noise complaints. They said they wanted to make sure students had the opportunity to listen to their peers and help make Baylor more inclusive within the student body.
“Hopefully we can visually and spiritually realize that we as students are dedicated to hitting the mark, even if Baylor University’s administration is not,” Bingaman said. “I hope to be a better ally and make myself a kit for those around me to educate myself and put myself in other people’s shoes, and hopefully they do the same. But then also to see that through all of our differences, that’s what makes us the most alike: the fact that we all have different hurdles, the fact that we all have different struggles.”
The event was supposed to take place on the first floor of Moody, but the capacity of the indoor space was only 60 people, so Hall said it had to be moved outside to the patio so they wouldn’t have to turn people away. Everyone was asked to wear all black and to give their undivided attention to the students speaking.
President Dr. Linda Livingstone and Director of Student Activities Matt Burchett were among the attendees listening to the students.
Shreveport, La., sophomore Veronica Penales, Gamma Alpha Upsilon advocate, took the stand and draped the gay pride flag over the podium. She read her poem that described the hardships of Black people, queer people, women and minorities in general.
“Queer privilege is knowing that on the grounds where green and gold shine / You will never feel at home – sit down, it’s not your time. / Queer privilege is the holy matrimony that is only allowed in thirty-seven states / And the liberation that your religion denies me. / Queer privilege is having to sit before your altar, / Trying so damn hard to pray the gay away,” Penales said.
Frisco junior Jada Sleet spoke on her reaction to last week’s incident in Moody. After the news about what happened spread around campus, Baylor released a statement in response to the situation.
“We strive to be a welcoming community on our campus as part of our Christian mission, and over the past year, we have made a strong commitment to doing better and being better,” the statement said.”In this instance, there was a cultural disconnect, and we simply missed the mark. We understand changes need to be made in how we treat and respect others within the Baylor Family, and we must further the important conversations related to race and cultural understanding on our campus.”
She said she was disappointed in Baylor’s statement in response and that it was more than a “cultural disconnect.” When the security guard said, “This is not a basketball arena, this is a study area,” whether or not his intention was to be racially insensitive, it was still unacceptable, Sleet said.
“We all know that racism is dark, but ignorance is something that has been allowed to exist,” Sleet said. “People who are ignorant lack a certain understanding. We all make mistakes, and maybe have said some things we shouldn’t have. However, whether there is intended harm or not, at the end of the day, people do get hurt by active ignorance. What we need to do is stop this disease from spreading across generations and hurting countless people. You may not realize how much one or two words can harm someone.”
Honolulu senior Asia Brown said she is tired of people saying they are listening. She said minority students want to feel acknowledged as humans and not “case studies.”
“When you have culture, you have family because they connect with each other through that culture, and Baylor has shown me its culture has been whitewashed once again, because again, this institution that we’re standing on was built on racism,” Brown said. “In order for us to begin to build up ourselves and actually start healing as a community is for us to acknowledge each other; to understand each other; to recognize the pain and uplift each other.”
North Richland Hills junior Trina Wilson said because of a history of being harassed and slandered on the way to Gamma Alpha Upsilon meetings, Wilson often feels unsafe on campus.
“Everyone loves to preach that Christianity is a religion based around love, so why aren’t people just trying to love each other and be happy?” Wilson asked. “If your favorite catchphrase to use is, ‘Hate has no home here on the Baylor campus,’ then Baylor, own your ideals.”
Hoover, Ala., sophomore Saba Sultan said because she is Muslim, she is not allowed to be a Community Leader at Baylor or a Student Regent because she is not Christian.
“The role of the student regents is to speak on behalf of the student body,” Sultan said. “Not everyone at Baylor is Christian. Not everyone at Baylor is white. So what about those voices? Are they being heard? No. We’re shut down. And that’s Baylor’s way of saying that we all don’t belong at the school, and that there’s no space for us.”
Bingaman described her first day at Baylor. She said on her first day as a college student, she experienced discrimination.
“I walked into my last class on my first day, and it was conversational Chinese. I walked through the door, maybe two steps, and one of my white counterparts asked me, knowing nothing about me, she didn’t know my name, where I come from,” Bingaman said. “President Livingstone, I hope you hear me. She asked me, ‘Are you lost?’ Because it doesn’t look like a Black kid could speak Chinese. It doesn’t seem like let alone a Black freshman should be in a sophomore and junior level Chinese class. That didn’t look right.”
Bingaman said she realized that day that she would have to endure pain and trauma to get her degree.
St. Louis freshman Alleson Brown said after listening to all the students speak, she no longer felt alone at Baylor.
“They’re not willing to suppress their own emotions to make the majority feel comfortable, and they’re willing to make people uncomfortable in order to make that be known,” Alleson Brown said.
Oahu, Hawaii freshman Geraldine Averion said she was unaware that there was a statement on human sexuality that the university does not theologically support an LGBTQ lifestyle.
“It’s disgusting because we were taught to treat people equally well, so this event was really eye opening for me,” Averion said.
Kapolei, Hawaii freshman Jhenaya Hampton said the stories about minorities facing discrimination were baffling.
“It’s just crazy that that’s actually happening on this campus, and there’s no punishment or repercussions being put out to these people,” Hampton said. “They are making people feel unwelcome or making people feel like they shouldn’t be here.”
San Antonio freshman Samantha Herrera said many of the speakers resonated with her, especially when she heard other women were afraid to be on campus alone.
“I can’t walk around at night,” Herrera said. “I can’t be myself. I can’t dress a certain way. I can’t openly be proud of my heritage, as I am a Latina, and speak my own language because I’ve had the opportunity to speak my language, but be silenced because of it … It’s good knowing that I’m not the only minority here struggling.”
In the future, Bingaman said she hopes Black students will get to feel like they belong and love their time at Baylor.
“We’re here today to make good trouble, and that’s it,” Bingaman said. “We aren’t here today just to holler. We’re here today to make change.”