A year ago this time, I was thinking and writing about the vulnerability of collegiate black men in relation to an incident where a group of white students shouted racial slurs at a few of the guys in my class who were riding skateboards. Shortly after that incident, someone wrote and posted a threatening letter, filled with racial epithets, on the car of one of my other students. And now this month, I've been thinking about an incident where an anonymous student wrote the word "nigger" on the hood of my student's car.
Those incidents happened on campus.The targets were black men.
As I talked to those guys and various other black men about the incidents, I started noticing a pattern of responses that go basically in this order: hurt, surprise, confusion, anger, more confusion, more anger, resolve (as in, well, that's what happens). That's what I picked up on; I'm sure there's probably much more that goes unstated or that I miss.
In this most recent incident, by the time the young man found me to tell me what happened, he was moving between those surprise, confusion, and anger stages. "Can you believe this?" he asked me a few times.
Later when we talked, he acknowledged that his first feeling was hurt. A couple of days later, we talked and he was raising questions like "what kind of person does this? What does the person think of me or think I did? Who is it?"
A week later, after learning that he was not the first target of such treatment on campus, he seemed resolved. I checked up on him one day to see what he thought about the "That's just how it is here" he said.
He had filed a police report, and he's fairly certain that we'll never know who did it. He then told me that his family advised him to "just be careful" and "watch where you are and who's around you." Of course, part of the struggle involves the notion that he was not doing anything wrong in the first place. He was not being careless. Yet he still found himself in a vulnerable position.
• Collegiate Students