By Nicolette Sanlin and Anthony Francis
Photos by Nicolette and Anthony
As I sit at home looking for the “right” way to begin, I’ve come to the realization that there is no “right” way. It feels right to be uncomfortable regarding my past, present, and future conversations. It feels right to lean into my discomfort when educating myself and the young lives I impact. It feels right to use the medium of sport to be the stimulus for social change. Sadness and hurt have been reoccurring emotions knowing that, as a country, we have not done enough to create REAL change, to take a stand against systematic racism.
Without a meaningful plan of action from our communities, arbitrary blanket statements serve as an empty attempt to pacify the masses. There have been times I have disregarded some of the micro-aggressions I’ve experienced. For example, there has been countless times that individuals have asked to touch my natural hair or simply invaded my space to do so because it’s different; an issue that others aren’t subjected to. There has also been numerous conversations that have fallen on deaf ears as to why the world looks at me as something less, not only because I’m woman, but because I’m a black woman. I had the opportunity to be heard and be that change on our campus.
Though that opportunity still exists, I have regularly done a disservice to our campus by staying silent. Today’s society is to blame because it didn’t allow me to feel comfortable speaking against the normalized racism I’ve experienced. Too long have I been silent because of how I would be perceived by my peers and colleagues; as an “angry” black woman. I cannot change the past, but the path of least resistance is no longer an option. I will be the catalyst for change at my institution. I will utilize my voice and my platform to help create a new normal. The diverse McKendree community would’ve benefited from me speaking up. I’m tired of being ok with sweeping things “under the rug.” I’m tired of being okay with the issues that have existed in the black community for far too long.
A quote from Kareem Abdul Jabar reflects the state of America today. He said,
“Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible – until you let the sun in. Then you see it everywhere.”
The senseless death of George Floyd and countless others have finally shaken the entire world at its core. It is a beautiful sight that not only our country, but our global society is seeking justice for the wrongful deaths of so many. We are finally starting to educate ourselves and take action to fix a broken system. The institution I love has a duty to take a stand and commit itself to elevating the voices of our black and POC students. It must empower the diverse student body to start having dialogue in the matters of discrimination.
I want to thank everyone for speaking up on the many issues that still plague this country and our community. It’s difficult to comprehend how these issues are a normal part of society in 2020. The egregious and unconscionable murder of George Floyd and the conversation surrounding racial inequality and police brutality are at the forefront our Nation’s mind. Good… We are trying to tell you that Black Lives Matter. Many black people have stories to tell, but choose not to for our own protection. This may be due to fear of repercussions, loss of jobs, loss of scholarships, or even fear of a damaged reputation. Sometimes it’s “easier” not to speak up. Even when experiences are shared, it typically only scratches the surface of what we may be feeling. I understand that I don’t speak for all black people, but I assure you, this will resonate with many. I want the black community, especially our students, to know that your stories will continue to be valuable and accepted. For those who have never felt safe sharing their stories, due to a culture that has never truly been accepting of our beliefs, we’re here when you’re ready.
As an African American, I know what I experience on a daily basis. I know that racism exists, albeit at times, more subtle than what our parents and grandparents experienced. By no means does that make it acceptable. I don’t need someone to tell me that I occupy a certain position because I’m a minority or to be continually told I’m “well spoken” as if it should come as a surprise. The micro-aggressions many mention are real and are a part of everyday conversations. I loved the quote Coach Sanlin mentions from Kareem Abdul Jabbar that says… “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible – even if you’re choking on it – until you let the sun in. Then you see it everywhere.” The murder of George Floyd has been eye-opening for many. For the first time in my life, I believe that people are beginning to listen.
I continually try to educate people on what it’s like to be a black person in America. I share with people that I have to be socially conscious at ALL times, more than others. I have to be careful about what I say and how I say it at ALL times, more than others. I have to act a certain way to be accepted by society at ALL times, more than others. Black people are exhausted and tired of conforming to society’s definition of normal or acceptable and being told through words and actions that we are not equal. It doesn’t matter what I do, I don’t get the same benefit of doubt as others. You don’t have to believe me if you choose, but I’m telling you what I know to be true. I find myself tearing up simply writing this. It’s what I feel every day. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those of all races that have shown support and choose to listen.
Again, thank you all for speaking up. Continue to engage in dialogue and have your voices heard. I pray that our community continues to keep the MAIN conversation at the forefront of the mind. Continue to fight for change and equality, regardless of who deems it unnecessary.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out.