By Jasmine Monroe
As a University of Georgia student, I am hyper aware of my privilege to experience many things. I understand the heated debate over Jittery Joes coffee vs. Starbucks coffee, I know how difficult it is to find an empty study room in the Miller Learning Center, and I know that O-House is the best dining hall on campus and any arguments made against that is, frankly, blasphemous.
But the one thing I know for sure, that no one will debate, is that football is the heart and soul of Georgia. UGA football fans stretch out beyond the state, that’s how loyal and deep red and black runs through our blood. I am proud to attend this prestigious institution and to have the privilege of watching our football players who work so hard to give us a good game.
I am not, however, afforded the privilege of forgetting my blackness when attending these football games.
I do not get a day off of being black just because I am a UGA student. I do not get to ignore or otherwise put away being black because it’s a Saturday in Athens.
I and other black students do not get to shy away from the hurt of hearing a white UGA student scream a racial slur at a black football player. We watch some people kindly tell him it’s disturbing and hurtful, but see him continue to use the slur, louder and wilder, as if to rub it in the faces of those that just told him it was disgraceful. We witness his friends laugh or do nothing about it, and deal with the boiling anger and hurt.
We are not afforded the privilege of being able to ignore racial tension and hate just to watch a football game as our white counterparts are able to do seemingly with ease.
Being black on campus is already tasking. Often black people are questioned about their presence on campus. We receive surprised or shocked expressions when affirming that we are students that attend. We are assumed to have been awarded some sort of hand out for diversity points as to how we “managed” to become students here instead of being applauded for working as hard or harder than others to claim our rightful spots here.
We are subjected to awkward conversations in lectures on race, ignorant statements thrown at us or about us, and confused glances in our direction as if intruding on campus space. We don’t get to ignore feeling like outsiders sometimes. This feeling is only amplified by gameday, when our campus is open to a multitude of people that share this sentiment tenfold.
Holding the red pompoms that were on the floors of Stanford stadium and shaking them wildly as the stadium “called the dogs”, sang the Alma Matter, and cheered for our football team was wonderful, of course. For a moment, while sitting with my friends I was able to just enjoy being a person in a crowd of other people that loved our school as much as I did and cheer our team to victory. I was even able to make jokes in passing about the football players skipping to a touchdown, which earned a lot of laughter by surrounding spectators. But as quickly as that feeling began, it ended when our DJ began to play rap songs.
White people are allowed to love rap music. They are allowed to scream the lyrics off key in public and be hype and happy. However, as this was a public event, certain words were bleeped out because we were in public. It is not their job to insist on adding the n-word into the lyric that was bleeped out.
The jumbotron showed our football players one by one. The crowd cheered as they announced their names and where they were from. I noticed, however, that many of our football players were men of color. Namely, they were black men. This didn’t surprise me, but it did leave me feeling odd. I was in an ocean of white people, screaming and chanting happily for a team comprised mostly of black men, with rap music sung by black men in the background… for their entertainment.
I won’t accuse the entirety of Sanford Stadium being composed of racists, because that isn’t true. But isn’t there something unsettling about being around a group of people that only care about black people when they’re playing football for their entertainment or singing rap songs for their entertainment? They are afforded this privilege of cognitive dissonance. Not being able to connect (or perhaps, refusing to connect) the irony and the shamefulness of not caring about the wellbeing or the rights of others as long as they do what they determine is their jobs; handling balls and dropping beats. As if black people are their pets that they train to perform tricks but then leave outside in the rain to fend for themselves outside of sports arenas and concert amphitheaters. They are allowed, and are dependent on, the ability to separate those issues into categories while simultaneously using racial slurs to describe the football player they love so much.
Do you name your favorite thing something systematically hurtful and expect it to do well?
Do you call your puppy a bastard and expect it to jump for joy when you come home?
I do not get to forget or separate those issues. I do not get to stop being black for a moment, a few hours, a day. I am always black, and I will always be aware. I am expected be passive when disrespected and not get too riled up because I am privileged to attend this university and should be thankful that I am allowed here and I can’t cause a scene by pointing out outrageous behavior otherwise I’ll be that angry black person and I can’t afford to embarrass my entire race because I’m upset.
I’d say that’s pretty unfair.
Other UGA students have commented and written passages on the outrage of the unknown student screaming “Put the N-Word in!” during the Georgia vs. Tennessee football game on Saturday, September 29th, 2018 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA. There are tweets from people who were there or heard from others and share their thoughts, but some of the posts are being removed. We see the censorship, and the attempt to silence the outrage tells us just exactly how you feel about this outrage.
To the UGA Student that used that racial slur; your words were hurtful, hateful, and a reflection of your heinous character. We see you, we are embarrassed by you, you have angered us and you’ve exposed your ignorance to us all. Congratulations.
To the friends of the UGA student that did nothing. Your silence speaks volumes. We hear you, too, and we see what you’re willing to tolerate and greenlight as acceptable. What is not acceptable, however, is this concept you and others like you hide behind that hate speech is free speech. It is not. Your values have been highlighted in your silence, and trust us; we understand clearly.
To those who tried to help the situation/are affected; you’re heroes. Ignorance is a hard beast to kill, but extending kindness by being informative in why what he said was hurtful was the best you could do, and we applaud you for your efforts anyway. I am sorry you had to hear such vile words on what should have been an excellent day; but know that your feelings are valid and you will not be ignored. We see you, we hear you, and we understand and stand with you.
I love Georgia. I love UGA, Go Dawgs and all that. But we have got to do better. If you love us so much, if you are so proud of your diversity, then prove it. Protect us, stand with us and hear us.
Do not silence us when we share our stories. Instead…
Sic em, woof woof.
( https://twitter.com/QuinThomas2/status/1046422687101452289 )
4 Comments Add yours
One fine day America might grow up and behave like an adult, but not while you have a racist bigot as president!
I encourage everyone to check out Benjamin Watson’s Facebook post and book following racial incidents in Ferguson MO several years ago. I think they are on point and he is a GA grad and former GA player. More importantly he is guided by faith that can bring us together through incidents like this. Thanks for challenging the status quo not to let things slide. My hope is that something like this is an opportunity for positive change so people of color don’t feel this way anywhere in our country.
Thank you so much for sharing this, Jasmine! As appalled as I am that anyone would utter that slur, I also need to be more aware that white culture is still very normalized at UGA. I genuinely appreciate your willingness to share how deeply this affects you and your peers. I hope that others will read this and be moved to stand for mutual respect and dignity for people of all colors.
I just want to start by saying this article was compelling in its points. I was raised in a series of schools where black students made up at least forty percent of the population, and I am honestly worried for the cultural shift when attending UGA next year. I am worried about how they might treat someone who doesn’t look “white enough,” but that pales in comparison to the feelings you are having. I deeply apologize and I sincerely hope you are doing alright now. You couldn’t have said it more accurately, we must do better. Please feel free to contact me if there is anything I can do. Sending all the love and positivity possible.