The social justice campaign “I, Too, Am NYU,” which has so far portrayed the challenges of over 150 students of color through images, recently received a great deal of attention. Using the previous Harvard and Oxford University projects for inspiration, the pictures feature students holding boards with written reflections of stereotypes or discrimination they have experienced. The “I, Too, Am NYU” Facebook page lists the organization’s four goals — empowering minority students, contesting micro-aggressions and racial discrimination while asserting a sense of belonging, bringing issues to our administration’s attention and educating potential allies about allyship to students of color. While the campaign serves as a powerful reminder of the struggles minorities endure on college campuses, it would indeed benefit from giving non-minority allies an opportunity to participate. Allies contributed to the success of the civil rights and LGBTQ movements and omitting their influence from the statement could hinder further development.
A report from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that verbal comments are the most common form of racial discrimination toward minority students. Even on campuses that are often considered highly diverse like NYU, with a minority enrollment greater than 36 percent, 45.8 percent of minority students reported experiencing racially charged comments. These numbers are even higher at less diverse universities. By directly addressing comments they found hurtful or ignorant, students participating in the “I, Too, Am NYU” campaign are challenging the most prevalent form of racism. The nationwide prevalence of these comments highlights the need for the campaign to expand to every university.
Lack of diversity is an issue that faces colleges nationwide. Many U.S. universities claim to have racially diverse campuses when in actuality the percentages of minority students are actually quite low. NYU claims to be one of the most diverse private universities in the United States, and yet the proportion of black and Latino students is less than the nationwide census, at 4.8 and 8.1 percent respectively. For this reason, “I, Too, Am NYU” is calling for more minority students to be admitted.
Movements citing the prevalence of racial discrimination struggle to make a significant impact without strong allies. Allies play an important role for campaigns that advocate for greater LGBTQ rights by helping to influence a larger demographic. The success achieved by the integration of allies into the LGBTQ movement should encourage minorities who participate in campaigns to connect with members of a majority group. Allies on the NYU campus should strive to become more involved in movements advocating for racial equality in order to make efforts more effective. By recruiting non-minority students who are committed to fighting discrimination and willing to use their inherent position of social privilege to promote acceptance, “I, Too, Am NYU” could reach a broader audience.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 23 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]
*Correction: A previous version of this article did not fully represent the stated goals of I, Too, Am NYU. The movement’s fourth goal is to “educate our peers and potential allies about allyship to students of color.” WSN regrets this error.