By Jacob Carter, Staff Writer
Nine students at New York University recently banded together to form the “I, too, am NYU” project. The organization’s goal is to bring a voice to the campus’ many racial minority groups and illuminate the discrimination that such students frequently face.
The inspiration for the project originated from similar actions taken by students at universities such as Harvard and Oxford. Involvement in the mission came after the college’s president, John Sexton, proclaimed in a university-wide speech that “there is no racial majority ” on the campus. Needless to say, many students felt insulted by such a remark, as it minimized the importance of race and glossed over prejudices that still exist today.
The project’s most powerful element comes in the form of photos that have since been publicized by means of various social media outlets. In the pictures, each individual holds up a whiteboard on which he or she has written some of the racist or stereotypical remarks that have been addressed to them.
One black female student wrote down a comment made by her white male roommate, which reads “There’s no such thing as a black pretty girl.” Another student wrote down the words of a concerned parent who didn’t think her daughter would get into the school because the school was “letting in a lot of foreigners.”
Along with the photographs, the organization crafted a proposal asking the university’s administration to be more open in regards to issues such as race. Though their efforts are quite recent, the group has been met with large amounts of both support and criticism.
Most of the disapproval comes from those who claim that racial tension has been the only result of this project. Others are upset at how the project represents certain racial minorities better than others. On both accounts, I find these criticisms to be quite wrongheaded.
In regards to racial representation, the group itself wisely pointed out that the project is still in its early stages. Hopefully, as it continues to expand with new participants, it will not be long before a full spectrum of racial diversity is expressed.
However, it is the comment concerning racial tension that I found most disconcerting. By unveiling the discrimination that still exists in our current culture, these students have illustrated a problem that is often thought to be antiquated or irrelevant. Though prejudice is not as blatantly malicious as it once was, it is still an issue that demands to be addressed. Therefore, these students are not causing racial tension. They are simply uncovering an aspect of society that is all too often ignored by many people.
I was deeply moved by the project, and I hope that their efforts are rewarded by the presence of a more racially harmonious campus environment.