The photos above are from a new project called #itooamharvard which explores racial discrimination amidst ivy league students at Harvard University in Boston.
This photo project was in reaction to an article, Affirmative Dissatisfaction, published last year in The Harvard Crimson a school publication. I am not saying that Affirmative Action isn’t flawed because I am not sure I understand all the details, but I am certain of the importance of what it represents, which is so clearly lost on the student that wrote this article who is basically saying, “white people are smarter and that’s why we get into these schools, and when minorities get better then they will take their rightful place at Harvard amongst us.” I find the way she trivializes real minorities offensive (why not AA for those with red hair? or short people? or the ugly?), and pretty indicative of the kind of privileged ignorance that doesn’t really understand and therefore doesn’t take seriously the ideas of of racial inequality and how it contributes to itself. Sure Court Supreme Cheif Justice Roberts says, “The way to stop discrimination on the base of race is to stop discriminating on the base of race.” But this statement is inherently flawed. The fact is, there are thousands of qualified minorities who never make it to certain schools not because they’re not smart enough or not ambitious enough, but because they never had the lifestyle afforded to those of a higher income, which unfortunately often times reflects race.
I usually try and stay away from the comments section, but I was all too curious to see what kind of comments an article on race at one of our top schools had attracted. The first comment from a current Harvard student under the name “BrownAndProud” is thoughtful, and even though there are some overtones of defeat, is hopeful as well. The last paragraph sums up the sentiment really well,
”Some day, you’ll come to terms with your anxiety and self-doubt about being admitted unfairly as a legacy. You’ll decide that you are worthy of what was handed to you and move on to be successful and fulfilled in whatever career you choose- and no one will ever question you because the fact that you were a legacy does not necessarily have to be common knowledge. I will never be able to hide the color of my skin, and I will graduate from here knowing that the stereotypes you threw so lightly around in this Crimson piece are the realities I will face for the rest of my life. I could come to terms with my self-doubt and know that I am equally qualified as any of my peers that now sit beside me in class- but the fact remains that the world will see me as a less qualified doctor, pilot, lawyer, etc. This is most unfair, but we make the best of what we can with what we have and move forward working twice as hard against these stereotypes, and working to dismantle them when people like you continue to perpetuate them.”
This comment has numerous encouraging replies, including one from Harvard and 901 likes. I think that people who are a privileged bubble don’t get what inequality means, and this is apparent from the way they talk about it. It’s discouraging to read opinions like in this article, but is very hopeful to see the responses- specifically the photo project, BrownAndProud. It is depressing that even in an Ivy League school students are still met with such racial apprehension. That because they’re black they probably don’t deserve to be at Harvard, or alternatively because they’re at Harvard they aren’t really black. I know that people are more empowered now than ever and have the will to keep proving people wrong, even as discouraging as each prejudicial blow may be. Proving that we do deserve to be on the bus, at the counter, and at this school.