I Am Drowning in Whiteness: Inspired by Ijeoma Oluo

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0FCD991F-BF25-444B-9AEC-F6D05961B2E2Written by: Jadah Bearden

Art by: Grace Monahan


I exist at the intersection of Black, Queer, Woman on this white campus. My choice to attend Champlain was a decision by which my identity would be repressed and malnourished for four years. My thought process went a little like this: my Blackness is my most apparent and prominent feature. It is the identity that I am most comfortable with, and have done the most work on. My queerness, however, needs a lot of attention and care. I have only been “openly” queer for about three years. My lesbain identity is merely a toddler. I knew I needed to be at an institution that would nurture this baby.

Howard University was always the destination. To my dismay, on my visit in April of 2018, I did not see any established, organized Queer spaces. I am sure thousands of Queer students attended the college. This fact confused and disappointed me. During my visit of Champlain, the opposite occurred. I saw the presence of a student Queer club that was stable and fully functioning. This made my decision very easy. It was a moment of self-preservation. I knew what I needed, and Champlain was the college that had it.

Fast forward a year and a half later. I am post-first-year and post-sit-in. I am devastated. I knew my Blackness would be repressed, but I never imagined that it would be disrespected. I signed up to be challenged, not traumatized. Conversely, I am now the Co-Student Leader of Include. I am generously given platforms to speak up and out my Queer identities on the campus. I receive both invitations from both faculty and on the administrative level. My experience, unfortunately, is not unique. Countless other students of color are tokenized, gaslit, vilified, and overlooked. The only way I can describe this phenomenon is that we are simultaneously hyper visible and invisible.

To make matters worse, no one on the administrative role has checked in on the students of color who endured this academic trauma. The work we did on ourselves this summer to heal and restore what Champlain destroyed happened because of our agency. This school did not make an effort to ensure our safety and sustainability. To this day, I have not received any form of communication from a faculty or staff member about my well being. (This does not include communication with faculty and staff that I have a relationship with). Champlain gave us crumbs last spring to keep us quiet. To temporarily satisfy our cries for help. Now that we are back on this campus, we are not being afforded the decency of care and respect. This type of corporate gaslighting exists on an ongoing cycle.

Enough is enough. 

Trauma should not be a part of the classroom. These should be the best years of our lives. The most difficult issue we should be dealing with right now is deciding if I should attend a party or complete an overdue essay. My Blackness is not only malnourished, but is in danger. I am emotionally, mentally, and institutionally abused. The joy and happiness that community care brings me never lasts long. I see each day as subject to change or harm me in a new, oppressive way. I did not sign up for this. This pain was not included in the syllabus.

I am drowning in whiteness.

It is time for students of color to request emotional reparations on Champlain College. Our white peers have no idea what we encounter on a daily basis. Our experiences are not equitable. Our trauma is not universal. This is a call to my fellow students of color. If you are moved to do so, please use your voice to write about your experiences on this campus. This thread is not to inform the white moderate about our circumstances—they are completely aware of them. They are the ones who put us through it. This is to express our community grievances. 

I want to combine our stories to build a strong conviction. I am no longer accepting this inappropriate and unlawful treatment. I am protective and defensive when it comes to my community. I am standing up and fighting back. I am building my own flotation device. As I rise to the surface of this white body, I warn all of you oppressors to watch out. This is the pedagogy of the pissed off students of color.

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