Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

I feel unsafe on campus

Speaking up comes at a cost
Collegian File Photo

During my first night at the University of Massachusetts, I stood silently in the basement of a fraternity as I experienced an intense culture shock. My new environment was so different from anything I was used to. I was used to dancing with my girls to Dancehall and trap music in a smoky haze. I didn’t know how to shotgun a beer, I hated the song “Stacey’s Mom” and I had very negative preconceived notions about frat boys, that I still hold on to. I knew that UMass would be different from anything I had ever known, but I had incorrectly anticipated my ability to assimilate, so I stayed silent.

On the second day, I was questioning my ability to make friends, which was odd because I knew myself to be an outgoing person. Then I heard “Hold Yuh” by Gyptian playing as I walked down the hallway and I said to myself, “I must find them.”

I met my friend that day. She needed someone to braid her thick, curly hair and I knew how to. While I did her hair, my music — a fusion of Hip Hop, R&B, Dembow and Dancehall — played in the background.

“Sis, you have such a good taste in music,” she said. “Where you from?” I told her I was from New York City – Washington Heights to be exact. “It’s right above Harlem,” I said.

“That’s so cool! I have family in Jamaica, Queens, which is funny because I’m Jamaican.” When she said that, I knew she was the person who had been playing “Hold Yuh,” so I brought it up. “I was playing it and whining and everyone was looking at me like I was crazy.”

“What did you expect?” I responded. The way she laughed, I knew we would be best friends.

Racism came up that night while we partied with some of the people on our floor. If you asked me how it came up, I couldn’t tell you, but I could tell you exactly how a white man expressed his views on racism. I often play his words in my head and remember this time as the first time I knew I would never truly fit in.

“Racism doesn’t exist,” he said. “Get over it.” My friend couldn’t believe that someone could be so disrespectful, so she challenged him.

“How you gonna tell a black woman that racism doesn’t exist? Have you ever experienced it?” her voice radiated integrity, but I stayed silent, struck by shock. They started arguing while everyone else called for peace. I could not find the words to express how uncomfortable he made me, so I stayed quiet. This was an odd response for me, because I knew myself to be outspoken.

“Aggressive” was the word many used to describe her and the events that had transpired the night before. The cost of her speaking up and speaking out was people who barely knew her using the one word she despised.

They saw her as aggressive but I saw her, and I still see her, as brilliant. She can charm anyone with her beauty, her optimism and her smile. She tried to make conversation with everyone whereas I was reserved. I tried to mimic her positivity and optimism because she radiated poise. I knew she didn’t think she was living her best possible life, but she refused to stand down and become complacent. All she wanted was for the white men on our floor to treat her as they treated the white women on our floor, but she soon understood that was too much to ask. Eventually, it consumed her.

She left after our first semester for many reasons, such as receiving a cheaper education elsewhere, but she didn’t fight her parents when they asked her to leave because she wanted to. She wanted to get out. Although she believed that she had befriended the men on our floor, none of them even said bye to her when she left.

I tried to play nice when second semester started, but eventually I decided I was no longer going to sit in silence. I couldn’t pretend that I was okay with my environment, and I felt I owed it to her to speak up, so I did.

After I wrote an article about the privilege displayed during the Super Bowl riot, I received comments from people on my floor such as: “We get it, her friend left, but she needs to get over it,” “She makes everything about race, like, get a new struggle” and, “We were making ‘your mom’ jokes about your Indian mother.”

Negativity beginning to consume me too; I even told my roommate that we would have to keep our door locked at all times. My way of coping with how anxious I felt was to put up a strong, mean front. I didn’t feel safe — I felt silenced.

Now, when my roommate tells me how people feel about me she says, “they just think you’re mean.” It messes with my head so badly because I know she’s right. I had to challenge everyone constantly because I refused to let them see how they had defeated me.

I finally found my voice, only to realize that everyone liked me more when I was silent. Now I can’t help but ask myself, “Well, what did you expect?”

Sonali Chigurupati is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • I

    I feel uApr 26, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    I guess the people in these comments don’t realize that microaggressions exist and are exhausting to deal with. Just because it isn’t extreme racist acts doesn’t mean you can’t critique , engage in discussion, and try to change it. I’ve had similar experiences on this campus and I honestly do think it’s shaped the way I interact with people, I have tried to enter social situations being myself and had microaggressions thrown my way — some people are ignorant and choose to stay that way and it’s honestly not worth my energy to say something all the time even if I want to.

    • J

      John aimoMay 1, 2018 at 6:57 pm

      Oh no you are a victim of ‘microaggression’ , oh no the horror. Who cares, normal human beings who receive a mean stare or some ‘microaggression’ don’t demand special recognition or rights, they just let it go and move on with their lives.

      The sad thing is that once, serious racism did exist like segregation, lynching, denial or diminshment of civil rights. What do minorities and black people consider ‘racism’ today… a mean stare.

      Nobody is going to take racism seriously anymore, nobody is going to take civil rights act seriously anymore and once you remove the seriousness of racism, than real actual racism like denial of jobs, removal of protection of civil rights,segregation, targeting, and so on, is going to re-emerge against black people and minorities because nobody is going to take their cries of ‘racism’ seriously.

      It will be like the boy who cried wolf.

  • L

    Laura HeritageApr 26, 2018 at 1:27 am

    These comments are complete bullshit. Racist is alive and well, period. I can’t believe that’s even a topic of debate in 2018 – do any of you pay any attention to the news, at the very least? Are you really that shut off from the world that you don’t recognize it? This is pathetic.
    UMass is a safe haven? What a joke. In all reality, we barely have diversity. Sure, for all the in-state white students it’s diverse because there’s international students and 1 black student on your floor. That doesn’t mean it’s diverse in the slightest, or accepting – Sonali’s example is only one of many.
    Check your own goddamn privilege before coming at the privilege of a POC (are you shitting me?).
    With that being said, I’m sorry you and your friend have been going through this, Sonali. Thank you for speaking up. Keep doing what you’re doing and never be silent.

    • N

      NITZAKHONApr 30, 2018 at 8:44 pm

      How about you check out of America? Go live in, well, virtually any other place in the world for a few years. (I hear the no-go zones in Sweden are particularly “entertaining” for women.)

      As to Sonali, I don’t want them to be silent. Speak. Participate in the market place of ideas. Just don’t whine about UNFAIR life is. Because it is, and once you speak out, expect people to speak back.

  • S

    Sitting BullApr 25, 2018 at 10:50 am

    If it makes you feel any better, I feel very unsafe in Washington Heights. They literally hate white people there. And they really don’t like white guys dating a Caribbean woman in their ‘hood. It was more than a feeling…..I actually was not safe. Got jumped twice and warned to stay away; they won. Believe me, racism is alive and well in the communities of color. The white man is the devil, pure and simple…no ifs, ands or buts. I’ve got the bruises to show for it. That had a way of piercing the bullshit PC liberal nonsense I learned at UMASS. It goes both ways. So spare me that you are afraid of white kids who like different music than you and had a different experience growing up.

    • N

      NITZAKHONApr 27, 2018 at 8:49 am

      If they hate whites so much, and they hate America so much… let’s send them back to the African country that closest matches their DNA profile. Give ’em $1 million, but revoke their US citizenship.

      After all, without the slave trade (in which their fellow blacks sold them into slavery!), that’s where they’d be.

  • B

    BenApr 24, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Sonali has oppressed brown man syndrome. He’s a victim. Just ask him.

  • B

    BenApr 24, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    I wouldn’t say that racism doesn’t exist anywhere. To the contrary I would say that it exists everywhere. Everyone’s a little racist even the author of this column.

    This was another tone policing article about how blacks see things more clearly just by virtue of being black than clueless white people. Which is racist.

    Can I ask why so many supposed examples of anti-black racism disintegrate after even the smallest inspection? Take, for example, last week’s big proof of oppressed black people, the two guys being arrested at Starbucks, Once the facts came out we found out that they were criminally trespassing, that they had asked to buy something or leave, that the manager was a huge social justice warrior, and that they told her she should go ahead and call the cops. Anyone of any race who exhibited the same behavior would have been arrested.

    The big proof ended up being a big nothing.

    • A

      AlyssaApr 26, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      Okay first of all, there are many people that come into Starbucks and don’t buy anything and also use the free WiFi to complete tasks. And even if they were “trespassing”. Did you see the video with the black guy who wanted to use the bathroom before buying something and they refused him but gave it to a white guy who expressed that he did not buy anything but was given the code by the same manager. So what’s your excuse then?

      • J

        John aimoMay 1, 2018 at 6:52 pm

        Who cares, this was just an example of special privileges black people get. Virtually everyone is subject to racism in our country, if the exact same thing happend to an asian person or hispanic person, there would be no media coverage or a day devoted to diversity training for starbucks staff.

        Simply because that person was black and was denied the use of a bathroom, now millions of dollars worth resources, training and non-productivity for that day of implicit bias/indoctrination training for starbuck employees is being wasted.

        This is a classic example of the special privileges black people demand simply because they are black even if they face some horrible thing like being denied access to a bathroom(a normal human being would have just left and went to another restaurant or used a public bathroom) and what do they give back in return? Nothing

  • T

    Truthful TomApr 24, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Privilege? This article screams privilege…from the misleading (click-baiting) title to the sheer ignorance of the author. This campus is a safe haven

  • J

    John aimoApr 24, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    This is a perfect example why minorities don’t fit in on campus and why nobody cares about ‘racism’ anymore, the author should learn how to socialize and have friends. Normal people don’t care about race, we aren’t thinking about race or black people or whatever. You should learn how to have normal conversations and not bring up your race all the time,.

    “All she wanted was for to be treated as the white women were”.

    In real life where you choose who you want to socialize with and how you treat people, you can treat them however you want, you can treat ‘white people’ better than black people, which is probably because those men find ‘white women’ to be attractive and similar.

    If you want to make umass into some racial place, go to a college that is all about race or if you want to not have your feelings hurt because they didn’t ‘treat’ you the same way than go join an Indian club or black club or whatever. Minorities get a great deal in our country from welfare benefits to affirmative action to special laws and in so many instances in life get treated with kid gloves and still they complain and demand more and now it’s about their feelings.

    Why don’t we just pass laws that make people be friends with minorities? Why not pass a law to make ‘white men’ treat minorities like ‘white women’ ? How about an anonymous reporting system?

  • N

    NITZAKHONApr 24, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Is there racism? Yes. There are also people who think that Elvis is alive. There will always be stupid people. (You want racism, REAL racism, go abroad.)

    Here’s a black man talking about racism in America. FYI, Larry Elder’s autographed picture hangs on my home office wall.

    Is America Racist?

    • R

      RApr 24, 2018 at 4:42 pm

      that’s pretty cool how you dismiss the lived experiences of all people of color except for the one that says what you want to hear. that’s definitely not racist of you or anything!

      • J

        john aimoApr 25, 2018 at 8:54 pm

        It’s not racist at all.. If he was racist he wouldn’t have listened to what the person had to say because of the color of his skin/race.

        It’s comments like this which make a mockery of racism and it’s hard to tell the difference, if the accuser is hysterical and believes their your racist or your racist because of x claim or if they are using it as an excuse to attack someone they disagree with.

        • N

          NITZAKHONApr 30, 2018 at 9:03 am

          An accusation of racism is “SHUT UP!”

          It means someone is so intellectually lazy and/or incompetent (they could be both) they don’t want to deal with the argument-at-hand.

      • N

        NITZAKHONApr 26, 2018 at 9:46 am

        Or Candace Owens. Or millions of others.

        “Racist”? Really? You’re a college student. Here I was expecting facts, logic, history, evidence… instead, you use a Marxist “Critical Theory” smear and smugly assume you’ve won. I’m disappointed.

        Run along now. You’re dismissed.

      • N

        NITZAKHONApr 26, 2018 at 9:48 am

        Oh, and let’s have you talk to my first-generation immigrant, non-Caucasian wife while you’re at it.

        Hope your medical insurance is paid up. She’s a pint-sized fireball.