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Tackling on-campus is complicated, here are some practical tips for students looking to create sustainable change.

By Gloria Oladipo When will this foolishness end? Real talk though. At Cornell University, my current schooling, there have been a number of “racially insensitive incidents”. In the past 4 months “Build a Wall” has been chanted at the Latino Living Center, an African-American student was beaten while being called a “nigger”, and  anti-semitic posters were hung up around campus. Oddly, I don’t feel surprise or shock, but I do feel a constant disappointment that this is the world we live in. Adding onto my disappointment is the lingering feeling that nothing can really be done to make campuses a safer space for marginalized students. As for the faculty, bureaucracy and hollow olive branches have been the forwarded responses. The main strategy has included plastering fliers reading “Hate has no home here” across campus, as well as the creation of various sub-committees. The student response has been a slew of protests, occupation of board meetings, and lists of demands. While I applaud the actions of students as kinetic compared to the sedentary pace of the faculty’s, all of these actions still leave me wondering: “Is this it?”. I wanted to write this article as a pseudo-instruction manual to students, trying to suggest strategies to more effectively combat the racial climate on campuses, but then I thought: “I also don’t know what to do.” There is a question I still struggle with: How are we, as students, supposed to actively combat our own feelings of powerlessness by fighting against racism while also acknowledging the structures that prevent true change in the first place? So after curating responses from older folks and different community members, I melded them with my own thoughts to create a shortlist of opinions regarding the role of students:
Related: UNIVERSITIES NEED TO DO SO MUCH MORE TO PROTECT MARGINALIZED STUDENTS LIKE CHENNEL “JAZZY” ROWE

White people are capitalizing off of a plant that led to thousands of Black people getting incarcerated and essentially shutting us out of the legal cannabis market.

In 1992, Tupac famously said “instead of war on poverty, they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.” The effects of the War on Drugs are still active and visible 25 years after the rapper called attention to this already decades old problem. Black people are nearly four times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite marijuana usage being the same between the two groups. In 2015, African-Americans made up 30 percent of the population of Oakland,California but 77 percent of cannabis arrests, compared to 4 percent for whites.   Like many of the public policies in the U.S., the policies around the prohibition of marijuana was racialized and relied on racist propaganda instead of factual, scientific research. Before Richard Nixon, the man known for inciting the War on Drugs, there was Harry J. Anslinger, the director of the Bureau of Narcotics (known today at the Drug Enforcement Agency). Anslinger’s message to America was clear — weed is evil and it makes Blacks and Latinos “forget their place in society.” Anslinger was even quoted saying “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” Like many white men throughout history, Anslinger used the hypothetical sexual assault of white women to convince the country that marijuana was a dangerous drug. Today, those same white women are benefitting heartily from the legal cannabis market. This week, Fast Company profiled Karson Humiston, a 24-year-old white woman who created a job-listing website for cannabis-related jobs. Black and Brown people have experience growing and distributing marijuana in the underground market. We have also suffered the most from unfair laws and enforcement, but we remain overlooked for the same jobs that appear on Humiston’s website.
Related: PART TWO: BLACK-OWNED URBAN FARMS IN THE DMV

Pollution and the risk of disaster is assigned to Black and Brown communities through racial discrimination and political neglect.

The first time you heard the term environmental racism may have been after Hurricane Katrina, during the ongoing Flint water crisis, or even as recently as Hurricane Harvey.  You may have thought, “What? How can the environment be racist?  It isn’t a person!”  And you wouldn’t be alone in your initial assessment. Although the environment isn’t a person, large components of the environment are controlled by people, and people are racist and creative in the ways they come up with to harm people of color. As history and current events have shown, environmental racism is real.  It’s having long-term effects on communities of color, and it’s costing the country billions of dollars. What is Environmental Racism? Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. The air we breathe, the water we drink, even the neighborhoods we end up living in are controlled by policies and practices.  Redlining and housing discrimination of the 20th century is responsible for segregating people of color into the least desirable neighborhoods. 50 percent of people who live near hazardous waste are people of color (think Cancer Alley in Louisiana), and floodplains (think Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey)  throughout the country have a high Black and Latinx populations. Additionally, Black children are twice as likely to suffer from lead poisoning as white children (think Flint water crisis).   These disparate health outcomes are no accident; they are by design. Pollution and the risk of disaster is assigned to Black and Brown communities through racial discrimination and political neglect. In regards to environmental discrimination, racism trumps classism.  Middle class Black people are more likely to live in polluted neighborhoods than poor white. In fact, one study found that Black people making between $50-$60k were more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards that whites who only made $10k. Black and Brown people cannot buy their way out of the systemic effects of environmental racism. The political will of Black and Brown communities has not made environmental racism go away either. People of color have less political clout, so our needs often go ignored by those elected to represent us. This was the case in Flint, Michigan when residents protested the dirty drinking water for a year. Their concerns went largely ignored by local and state officials until the story made national news. Still, Flint, which is 57 percent Black, is without clean drinking water.
Related: IF YOU CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT, THEN YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT BLACK LIVES

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