When I sat down to write a blog post, I initially was going to write about my summer internship. However, considering everything going on, from the protests to the expulsion of Maxwell Lawrence, I felt it would be more beneficial to current and prospective students to address racism at Purdue. This is an issue that a lot of us, myself included, can afford to pretend doesn’t exist. It wasn’t until I read through the Instagram account @blackatpurdue that I truly grasped how big of an issue this is. The sheer number of these instances of racism is staggering. Less than a week after the account began, it had nearly 150 stories directly from students about their racist experiences at Purdue. I hope that as more people begin to acknowledge how prevalent this issue is at our institution, we will begin to work more towards change, equality, and justice.
So, what can we do? First, educate yourself! Find books, movies, podcasts, etc. and begin to learn about persons’ of color experience. If you struggle with this topic, this can help you understand why we need change. A good place to get started is this document of compiled resources that one Purdue student put together! https://docs.google.com/document/d/19r0VEkEDD-sdTkQ7BIx3LoO7LbWpayq_l7RhY2aBY8M/edit?usp=sharing
You can also start a conversation. It is not POC’s job to educate you, but you can ask if they would be willing to share their experiences, so you have a better understanding.
Next, educate those around you. This can be an intimidating thing, but it is an issue that we cannot be afraid to address. Repost those cool insta graphics, but also tell your grandpa why the joke he just made is racist. Spread information on any platform you have and keep the momentum up!
Finally, hold those around you accountable. If you hear your friends say the n word, hard r or not, singing or stated, then call them out on it! If your professor makes an unfair assumption or racist comment towards a student, defend the student! Put pressure on Purdue to hold students accountable as well. After all, racist students go on to become racist doctors, racist lawyers, racist programmers, etc.
Now more than ever it is important for students to work together and stand up for what is right using whatever platform they have. The expulsion of a student actively demonstrating the exact things a Boilermaker should not stand for shows just how powerful students’ voices are.
*It is also important to note that this issue directly affects our field in instances of environmental racism. If you are unsure of where to start with educating yourself, this could be a good place. A few examples include Flint, Isle de Jean Charles, and Cancer Alley. Reach out to me if you want more resources or have questions!
**Edit from the NRES Co-Directors, Dr. Bowling and Dr. Prokopy: You can also learn more about these issues in our 1 credit class (NRES 498) this fall entitled: “Environmental Justice, Structural Racism and COVID-19”.