Stephanie Tate | Correspondent
Ever since I made the decision to come to NC State, I’ve feared that this day would come. While many of my friends packed their suitcases and headed over to North Carolina A&T State University or Winston Salem State University, both historically black universities, I packed mine and drove to the school I called home.
Upon arrival I was immersed in a sea of melanin through the African American Symposium through the office of Multicultural Student Affairs. Meeting so many students of color gave me a sense of security in a place where very few people looked like me. That sense of security and that homelike feeling was shattered on the day that you slammed the door of the atrium into my body and snickered while calling me a monkey. I must admit I went through a series of stages after your actions. I went through the initial shock. Not including some disgustingly racist comments on Yik-Yak last year, and some small microaggressions like “You’re very intelligent for a black girl,” I had not personally experienced racism on campus, so of course your actions stunned me. I then went through a stage of confusion. I thought to myself “How could someone be at an institution of higher education, yet be so ignorant? How could someone attend a university that prides itself on diversity, yet still be so overtly prejudiced?” Lastly, I found myself flooded with anger. Admittedly, for fear of perpetuating the angry black woman stereotype, I kept my anger inside and instead rushed to my meeting. Who was I to be angry in the first place? Actually I’m the dedicated honors and AP student, the too many extra-curricular activities student, the service oriented student that worked their butt off to get here. You see this is what women like me have been doing for centuries, bending and shape-shifting for men like you. But this letter is my refusal to do so any longer, and my affirmation that my anger derived from being referred to as a monkey is justified. I do not want you to confuse this as a letter rooted in hatred but rather this letter is rooted in hope, newfound awareness, and appreciation.
First of all, I want to thank you for reminding me of what my being here stands for, what the mere presence of many African Americans on this campus stands for. It was only fifty-nine years ago that NCSU had its very first African American undergraduate students enroll. So let’s put this into perspective, a university that is 128 years old, just started had its first African American students enroll fifty nine years ago. Fifty nine years later, as an African American woman on this campus I have not only the privilege but the honor to walk on the same campus as those students. Like many other African American students on this campus I have a duty to uphold the values of scholarship and excellence like those who came before me. So thank you, for reminding me that I am not here just for myself.
I’m not sure if this is the Donald Trump effect of or what, but I had almost forgotten that overt racism was a thing. I had fallen into a daze and forgotten that people like you, people that harbor hate in their hearts and find comic relief in publically putting others down, exist. Your reminder was a rude but necessary awakening. A reminder that I have a duty as a human being to lift others up. To be a lighthouse of encouragement, smiles, and helpfulness in a world that can get dark.
Lastly, I would like to thank you for a reminder of the amazing resources and people that inhabit this campus. When I left our awful, but thought provoking encounter I walked straight into Witherspoon Student Center, the only building on this campus named after an African American. That same building houses the African American Cultural Center on campus. The center, equipped with a library, a gallery, and some of the warmest and inspiring faculty on campus, might be a good place for you to check out. I’m almost positive that Toni Thorpe, affectionately known as Momma Thorpe, can give you a hug that will squeeze some of those ill thoughts out of you. The books in the library will tell you of a people that were royalty, helped build and shape the world, and have since continued to illustrate brilliance. Thanks for reminding me why outlets such as the Nubian Message, Multicultural Student Affairs, and various other offices and student groups exist. The sense of community I have felt both prior to and after our encounter is the exact reason I remain an advocate for programs like Symposium, Diversity Education Week, and more.
With that being said, I hope that at this wonderfully prestigious institution you embark on a journey of discovery. I hope that you step outside of your comfort zone and get to know someone who looks like me or looks different from both you and I. I hope that your time here opens you up to new experiences and beliefs. I hope that one day you realize how powerful words can be. But until then, thank you for the reminder of where I came from, feel free to watch me as I keep going, as I continue to keep achieving, all while being unapologetically black.
No One’s Monkey