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We Weren’t Picking Cotton: Our Response to the Poster

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We Weren’t Picking Cotton: Our Response to the Poster

Poster placed around 194 St. Paul Street for Selma Screening Event

Poster placed around 194 St. Paul Street for Selma Screening Event

Poster placed around 194 St. Paul Street for Selma Screening Event

Poster placed around 194 St. Paul Street for Selma Screening Event

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Racism is always wrong regardless of the time, place, or situation. During Black History Month, it’s a slap in the face. Our campus is no stranger to racist and biased incidents. The irony here is that during a month when black students should feel especially celebrated and acknowledged, they must continue to deal with racism and the invalidation of their concerns and experiences.

On Monday, February 11, a poster depicting a cotton plant meant to promote a screening of the Oscar winning movie Selma was posted in 194 St Paul and on the Facebook page. The posters were displayed in every hallway and stairwell in the building. While the poster was created by a student of color, their race does not excuse their actions. Ignorance has no race, gender, or sexuality. An identity is never an excuse for carelessness.

To break it down, Selma is not about slavery. The hundreds of protesters who marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were not picking cotton. They were fighting and marching for people of color to be given the right to vote. During the height of segregation and Jim Crow, black people were turned away from voter registration for things as insignificant as the Grandfather Clause and other methods of voter intimidation. The peaceful protesters were met with violence and hate which resulted in Bloody Sunday, one of the most horrific events of the Civil Rights Movement. To learn more, please be aware that the contents can be triggering, click this link.

Incidents just like this continue to detract from the college experience for students of color. Instead of having the best four years of our life and feeling safe to step out of our comfort zone, we are constantly worried about external factors that affect not only our social lives but our academic careers. While other students get to focus on their lessons, we must worry about defending our entire race or ethnicity as we are often the only person of color in our classes, and sometimes our entire major. Just this semester alone, there have been incidents of white professors using the N word (hard “R”) and repeatedly making students of color feel unwelcome. At the end of the day, the current environment of the school negatively impacts our mental health.

At this point, we are more than upset. We are tired, frustrated, and fed up with the lack of intervention by administration. This should have never happened. There were too many people involved in the creation and approval of this poster for it to have made it this far. The solution is not more diversity training. The solution is not writing an incident report. The solution is to actually care about, be supportive of, and intentionally act and listen to students of color.

Signed,

Bekemeh Airewele

Charlotte Williams

Isiah Simmons

Alisha Bernadin

Beatrice Español

Shelsea Henry

Anthony Mahon

Hannah Short

Brendan Mazariegos

Kevin Chaney

Annia Samuel

Kenneth Bufford

Ennis Horzović

Yoland Gillespie

1 Comment

One Response to “We Weren’t Picking Cotton: Our Response to the Poster”

  1. Mark T Williams on February 14th, 2019 1:51 am

    To the Champlain students of color and their allies, there remain many “bridges” to cross. In your remaining time at Champlain and in the years ahead, may you continue to speak truth to power and shine a light on the systemic racial ignorance that continues to infest academia specifically and society in general. Remember that your voice in this matter does not end with the last period in the last sentence of “We Weren’t Picking Cotton…”. Because your faith in a better world burns bright…so bright it leaves scars on S. Willard. Let your actions stand as a testament that self-knowledge can’t be found on bookshelves…it comes from a life less ordinary. Let your actions be those that leadership reflects on years from now and utter..”remember when…?”

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We Weren’t Picking Cotton: Our Response to the Poster