I may be Black, but I’m not silent. I spent a year at Yale’s Divinity School, and I am still taken aback by the lack of acknowledgment of the issues that take place on this campus day in and out. The racism, both explicit and implicit, bothers me, and I can no longer be (publicly) silent about it. I may have applied to Yale, but Yale selected me because Yale believed I possessed something that will create a change in society, or so I would like to think.
When I applied to Yale’s Divinity School, it was the mission statement that pulled me in. “YDS fulfills a critical role preparing leaders at a time of dramatic shifts in the global theological landscape.” How can we prepare leaders at a time of dramatic shifts in the global theological landscape if we cannot prepare leaders to act at a time when the campus climate is experiencing turmoil? Students are hurting, and the silence is boldly permeating through the crevices of these very dated walls.
When I think about the larger Yale College community, I think about how the younger generation will go on to shape the world. I think about the future engineers, actors, politicians, doctors, lawyers and financial analysts. It is, in fact, the mission of Yale University to “attract a diverse group of exceptionally talented men and women from across the nation and around the world and to educate them for leadership in scholarship, the professions, and society.” If we educate our students for leadership inside and outside of the classroom, wouldn’t this be inclusive of leadership on a larger scale, starting with our administration?
I am perturbed because as a member of the larger Yale community, I feel forgotten about, just as I did with many of the other incidents that occurred within the Black community in the year I have been at student at Yale. I am certain I am not alone. Does the blood of people who look like me matter? Does the wellbeing – mental, spiritual and physical – of students of color who struggle every single day to be seen, heard, and treated with human dignity matter? These are questions that need to answered, and can no longer be brushed under the rug by the announcement of an initiative to increase faculty diversity or admit more students of color.
I am here to speak truth to power, because I understand that silence is what perpetuates the violence and injustices we see in today’s society and what we have seen throughout history. I am here to challenge the status quo because it needs to be challenged. We cannot accept futile apologies; we need actions that show a commitment to addressing the systemic issues, and solving the most pressing issues given by the students. What this looks like calls for intentional conversations aside from “hearing us”; we need to be heard, felt and treated like the exceptionally talented women and men we are.
I believe in a God who teaches the importance of having compassion for people, of helping those who are in need of help and of working as a servant to better the way the world currently exists. When I applied to Yale, I alluded to Proverbs 11:14 which reads, “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors, there is victory.” I work hard to create a better world for the people who are left in the margins, and I do this with love in my heart, and expect the same for an institution that “… represents a wide range of cultures, ethnicities and faith communities from around the world.” I ask with a kind heart, where is the senior leadership that adequately prepares students in moments of tragedy and crisis (caused by the institution or members of the institution) to step up and at least say something to condemn and interrupt hateful acts that undermine our supposed university values?
In the end, Proverbs 31:8-9 reminds us that it is important to “open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” I pray that we see our silence as a problem and work better to navigate in a world that needs to hear our voices. If we do not speak up for the people who are hurting on campus, who will we speak up for?
Qui tacet consentire; I hope you do not remain silent, and begin to speak up.
Nicole Angela Tinson