I, too, am CU Tumblr
Students at the University of Colorado are hoping to draw attention to the experiences of underrepresented students on campus through a photo campaign called "I, too, am CU."
The CU page on Tumblr piggybacks off the success of the viral "I, too, am Harvard" photo compilation, which drew international attention earlier this month.
The group of photographs, organized by an independent group of students on the Boulder campus, targets microaggressions, or small, everyday comments made to underrepresented students that subtly undermine their sense of belonging on campus, said Nurta Mohamed, who took the photos for the site.
"As a student at CU, and being an African American student, it's hard to always be standing out and people always make these small unintentional comments that they don't really know hurt students," said Mohamed, a senior who's also president of the African Students' Association.
Mohamed is writing an honors thesis about microaggressions, and said she was inspired by the success of the Harvard photo compilation.
She created a Facebook group and within 24 hours, had a group of people to photograph holding up whiteboards describing microaggressions they've experienced.
Examples shown on the site include comments such as "You speak English well for being Mexican" and "No, I will not teach you how to twerk."
The example Mohamed said she often uses when describing a microaggression is something she's heard from friends often — "Oh my gosh Nurta, you're the only black friend I have. Why can't they all be like you?"
That type of statement makes Mohamed a token, she said, and plays to the stereotype that African American's aren't approachable.
"It's one of those backhanded compliments as a woman of color to be told 'Oh why can't they all be like you,'" she said.
These types of statements aren't usually deliberate, said sociology graduate student Tamara Williams Van Horn, who's studying race, gender and sexuality.
"It doesn't have to be intentional or deliberate or even hateful, but it leaves the other person feeling diminished and not with the same status," Van Horn said. "They can be very innocent or accidental."
Microaggressions often go beyond race to affect gender, class, sexual orientation and other groups of marginalized students, said Franky Navarrette, one of the co-organizers of the project.
While campaigns at other schools have focused mostly on race, Navarrette said it was important to create a space for all marginalized groups to come together on the CU Tumblr.
"The reality is that the oppression these groups face is interconnected and stems from the same place," Navarrette said. "No one struggle is more important than the other, all are equally important. Our collective liberation is the goal. Each one of us has to recognize our privileges and see where we can be allies to each other, and stand in solidarity."
Navarrette said the Tumblr is also statement about "honest representation" of minority and marginalized students on campus. Many students feel that the university has "tokenized" underrepresented students by using them in pamphlets and other university materials to reflect the campus's diversity, Navarrette said.
Navarrette said the campaign is a starting point for actions that make everyone feel safe and included on the Boulder campus.
"We need action and we need it now," Navarrette said. "If students do not feel safe and included, then there is a barrier to learning and if there is a barrier to learning then the university is not doing its job right."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org