The picture you see should leave you dumbstruck. It shows how discrimination is still relevant in America today. The photo of the pavilion beside the pond on our beloved campus was taken on September 22, 2015, after Tyrone Smith saw this word, a young African American student studying Computer Science here with us at Millersville. This encompasses a realm of confusion because it occurred at one of Millersville’s most sacred and peaceful places, which host students daily. Tyrone was studying and became distracted by the defamation of his culture.
He saw the word “N-I-G-G-E-R” when catching up on his studies by the pond. After seeing that, he could no longer focus on his work. Under that pavilion exemplifies prejudice against a group and also a word that has scarred African-Americans still to this day.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and as of now, I am speechless. Speechless for my ancestors who’ve traded in their lives tortured through the Middle Passage, fighting for the Civil Rights movement and simply lynched for just being a “n*****.” During the Middle Passage, about two million slaves died during their voyage. The ones who made it to America, lived through death, the immortal death of slavery. Shortly after, African-Americans fought to become free through the Civil Rights
Movement. They fought for their dignity, freedom and prosperity. The pigmentation I was graciously blessed with turned into a curse developed by a stigmatized thought; a belief that my skin “brought” me into a country of slavery in the year 1619. Or how in 1793, Eli Whitney’s invention of cotton gin demanded the need of more slave hands and strong knees to tirelessly extract the economy’s cash crop.
We seem to forget that the year 1808 is the time when Congress banned the importation of slaves from Africa, but never ceased the immorality of slavery. Despite our disrespected status, we helped to build a great nation. As W.E.B. DuBois points out, “Our song, our toil, our cheer, and warning have been given to this nation in blood-brotherhood. Are not these gifts worth the giving? Is not this work and striving? Would America have been America without her Negro people?” But who cares, they were just n*****s right? N*****s that revolutionized the economic system of America and brought his and her miraculous, remarkable and distinctive black intelligence to a place that never appreciated them.
After 400 years of discrimination, African-Americans still cannot evade the word “n*****.”
What can be done for individuals to stop drawing a piece of history that totally degrades a culture? To be honest, there may not be an answer. But there is one thing that I would like to ask of all people, not just Millersville constituents, can we please not graffiti the word “n*****” in a place that empowers intellectual ideologies? We do not need to put down another race because we may not understand who they are. Please stop writing the word, it’s offensive if you did not know by now.
“Race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don’t have that choice”-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This quote may amalgamate a philosophical belief that is engraved in persons of color lives, still today. How can we take one step forward when we keep getting pushed back? As this young African-American man tries to enjoy a peaceful visit on Millersville campus, he is disturbed by what he notices under a pavilion. In despair, he reads the graffiti in bold letters, letters of repugnance, letters of distress, letters that are still unforgotten after centuries of oppression.
So I have a question, are we really just n*****s?
I have some intriguing news; African-Americans are savants, intellectuals, advocates, lawyers, doctors, engineers, connoisseurs, believers, dreamers, leaders and much more. We simply can’t just be n*****s, because we’ve always been and always will be more than a n*****. So as you may deliberately ponder over the question of “Are we just n*****s?” the answer in itself is self-explanatory. We are human beings that changed the world through sciences, art, education, and empowered the black aesthetic because we had no choice. Over three centuries later, we still fight the ignorant and the belligerent, the misunderstood and uninformed. I am not mad at you, for you may not know any better. I just want to make a point that is clear to everyone; African-Americans are not “n*****s.”