A few weeks ago, students at the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor took to Twitter to spark dialogue about diversity, racial tolerance and discrimination on the campus. A dynamic conversation about what it means to be black at a predominantly white school emerged from the tweets, which included photos, experiences and sentiments from the university’s small black student population. Students were inspired to take action after a fraternity on campus announced plans to throw a “Hood Ratchet Thursday” party. 

BYP received an letter written by an African American graduate who is obtaining her PhD at U of M, about her experiences there. At the author’s request, her name will remain anonymous. 

As a native of Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, I have mixed feelings about the place I call “home”. Having completed a large part of my primary and secondary schooling, it wasn’t until I came back home after graduating from college that I started to recognize the subtle signs of racism and social inequities in Ann Arbor. Many have described Ann Arbor as a very liberal city, but I think if you place a close-up lens one may consider otherwise. Maybe it’s the random pockets of co-op housing…or the unfair treatment young black students receive in the public school system…or maybe the fact that there are two Whole Foods less than 5 miles from each other, but rarely any decent grocery stores in surrounding cities like Ypsilanti and Detroit.

Now as a graduate student in a PhD program at U of M, the subtle racism in Ann Arbor has become more evident. Being yelled at by a man on a bike on campus screaming “Die n*gg*rs of America, keep the White House clean” during the 2008 presidential election…CONSTANTLY being gawked at by people wondering if it’s curiosity, envy, or hatred…having to second guess your intellect while teaching a classroom full of privileged white students who you think perceive you as inadequate…and having to walk to campus and see a confederate flag hung proudly has made enduring this PhD process all the more difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything growing up in Ann Arbor has done for me and attending the University of Michigan will (hopefully) do for me, but I honestly canNOT wait to get out of here. Over the years I’ve become more and more restless to permanently leave this place I called home. Having feelings of anxiety to mentally prepare to deal with the subtle signs of racism and passive aggressive people of this city and school is something I refuse to continue to do. On an ending note, you may be wondering why I have yet to talk about the support groups in Ann Arbor or on campus, which is something I could do but would rather not because that is a-whoooooole-nother story but not one unfamiliar to others. Anywho…thanks for listening!

If you have any experiences that you would like to share, and are interested in guest blogging for The Black Youth Project, email us at info@blackyouthproject.com.