"P.O.C." fails as umbrella term in Mizzou protests
In recent weeks, the University of Missouri, more popularly known as Mizzou, has been shaken by protests surrounding the administration’s mistreatment of black students and failure to provide a safe space. These protests won a resignation from Mizzou’s university president and school chancellor and spread to colleges across the country, including Yale University, Ithaca University, and Claremont-McKenna. However, last Monday’s backlash against the Mizzou protests — including racial slurs, vandalism, and even anonymous death threats on YikYak — has been a harsh reminder for black college students of the pervasiveness of racism on campuses everywhere.
As the protests continued, and Mizzou’s administration continued to not do enough to stop the perpetrators, many students nationwide started posting Facebook statuses such as: “To the students of color at Mizzou and many other institutions across the country: I, a student of color at Carnegie Mellon University, stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten their sense of safety, we are watching. You are not alone. #ConcernedStudent1950 #InSolidarityWithMizzou”
But people of color need to understand is that this situation is not about us. This is not something that Latinos, Asian Americans, or the entirety of people of color experience: This is an issue facing black Americans. By framing this issue as one facing people of color, we are indirectly making it seem like we are bearing the brunt of this kind of racism. By not calling ourselves allies in this situation, we are muddying the experiences of black individuals. We seem to be indirectly trying to combine all the experiences of people of color under one umbrella, when that is patently not the case.
It’s true that Latinos and Asian Americans also face issues that black people don’t, such as anti-immigrant rhetoric. Still, in this particular situation, in this specific case, those things don’t matter. The death threats at Mizzou were not made to a generic “people of color;” they were made to black people. This is an issue that black people, not people of color, face. People of color should be standing in solidarity with them, and we should be allying ourselves with the cause, but we should not be speaking over black people in these spaces, and we should not try to say that all people of color face the same issues at this time, because we don’t.
Carnegie Mellon should be doing more to ally itself, as both an institution and a student body, with the students at Mizzou. We need to further address our issues with with recruitment and admission of black students, and we need to be doing more to stand as allies with black students at Mizzou, Yale, Ithaca, and colleges across the country.