#BlackAtKState campaign gives space for black students to speak up, BSU president says

(Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

As protests continue across the United States following the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota on Memorial Day, the Black Student Union is giving students and alumni a virtual space to share their stories of what it’s like to be black at Kansas State.

In the thread of tweets, several current and former black students at K-State detailed their stories with microaggressions, discrimination, stereotypes, social media harassment and other experiences.

“By tweeting out the racism and discrimination we have faced over the years without punishment and without fear we are reclaiming the time we lost dealing with them,” Cara Bruce, BSU president and sophomore in social sciences, said via text. “It just goes to show how black students work twice as hard as any student on campus.”

The idea, Bruce said, was inspired by the #BlackAtMizzou campaign.

Black students at K-State account for a declining percentage of the student body. Between 2012 and 2018, when total enrollment fell by about nine percent, black student enrollment fell by 32 percent. In fall 2019, only 701 of the 21,719 total students at K-State identified as black.

Previously, Provost Charles Taber said that though his short time at K-State might disqualify him from having a historically based opinion on the matter, he does believe the campus climate has played a role in the decrease of black student enrollment at K-State.

“First, potential applicants to a university are very much affected by their perceptions of the campus and the information they see in news reports and social media — if they believe a campus is not inclusive, they are not likely to apply or come,” Taber said. “Second, student success is very much affected by student experiences on our campus, so that students who do not feel welcomed or included are less likely to succeed.”

K-State has made headlines in the last few years as racially charged events — some real and some later determined to be hoaxes — caused increased tensions on campus. At one point in 2017, multiple different instances were announced in a matter of days. In fact, it was the continued division on campus that eventually led to the first KSUnite.

Kemondre Taylor, former BSU president and recent K-State graduate, discussed his frustration with university administration.

“Having a seat at the table but having your voice suppressed when you are advocating for your community and constantly saying we do not need any more surveys nor KSUnite and administration doing it anyways,” Taylor tweeted in a thread.

Ayana Belk, senior in landscape architecture, weighed in too.

“Hearing ‘Of course Ayana has access to drugs. She’s from the ghetto” from a white classmate in the college of architecture who is from the burbs of Kansas City,’ she tweeted.

And being #blackatkstate is wanting to transfer to another school after every racial incident but having to stay because of K-State specific scholarships and/or programs,” Belk added in another tweet.

Bruce said she hopes this campaign can “bring about awareness and pressure for change.”

One person can tweet one tweet or three thousand tweets can come out of this,” Bruce said. “This wasn’t a social experiment; this is our lives.”

As for the peaceful protests that have popped up in the greater Manhattan area in the last week, “my thoughts are that its a good thing for sure,” Bruce said. “I hope that the effort continues and it isn’t just a one-time event.

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.