The University of Nevada, Reno, is allowing two new floors in the Living Learning Community Hall —an LGBTQ community and a Spanish speaking community. These floors will be considered a safe space for these groups, but the university should consider creating a floor dedicated to African American students as well.
“It would be nice to have a black floor at the LLC because being at this university, there isn’t much diversity, which results in a lack of connection with people who grew up in a similar or same background as you,” said freshman Chidera Abiakam. “When you’re a minority at your school, you feel a little isolated and left out and you feel a disconnect from others because you see so much of them, but we don’t see as much of us and sometimes those who best understand you are those of your own. This will benefit African American students because it’ll make them feel more comfortable and welcomed. Seeing that there are others that look like you and relate to you will help you not to feel like the odd one out.”
African Americans deserve a safe-space on campus because they are subjected to microaggressions among other cultural differences. Some African American students feel uncomfortable when they have to explain to their roommates about their hair-care, their culture and the fact they cannot say the n-word.
“Microaggressions I’ve faced as an African American daily would be mostly comments about my hair and my skin,” Abiakam said. “I receive backhanded compliments about my hair, whether it came to people wanting me to have my natural hair out or whether it’s the unwarranted touching of my hair. Then, when it came to my skin color, I’d be ‘pretty for a black’, or ‘pretty for a dark-skinned girl’. Sometimes it would be blatant comments such as being ‘too dark’ or hair ‘too much’ to handle.”
Personally, I have had awkward interactions with my roommates when it comes to my hair. I always wear a silk bonnet to bed and have a satin pillowcase. I also have an abundance of different products for my hair and as a result, my roommates have given me odd looks. When I come into Peavine Hall, I often hear non-black students saying the n-word to their friends clearly not understanding why they cannot say that word.
“I feel like it’d be cool to see a ‘black floor’ especially here at UNR,” freshman Teyshon Burkett said. “I can’t say I experienced any racism with any of my roommates or at any time in general. To be honest, I don’t really know if I’d be more comfortable on this hypothetical ‘black floor’ because I’ve never really grown up around a lot of black people.”
There are similarly designed safe-spaces throughout the United States.
In 2016, the University of California, Los Angeles agreed to establish a separate dorm for African American students. Similarly, at the University of Connecticut launched a diversity initiative for African American males called ScHOLA²RS.UCLA built a separate dorm for these black participants.
The African American floor should ideally be in the LLC with the rest of the groups. Here, black resident assistants or peer leaders can promote academics, unity and culture. At predominantly white institutions, African-Americans feel alienated, targeted and judged for their race. Safe-spaces are breeding grounds for friendship and business relationships. African-American students at PWIs will face similar experiences of alienation and negative self-concepts of themselves due to stereotyping and as a result, build commodity for it.
African Americans feel attacked on this campus. In September of 2017, University Police Services Officer Adam Wilson conducted a traffic stop where he joked about shooting black graduate student, Kevin McReynolds. This isn’t okay. This drives fear in our community, especially those who live on campus.
Not all African-Americans on campus should be assigned to this hypothetical floor but students should at least be given the option. With more and more communities opening up based on identity, we as African-Americans want to be included. We want a community. We want a safe-space.