On September 30th, 2019, the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed the world once again that they do not value their students of color or students from other marginalized identities. In a video entitled “#HomeIsWhereWIare”, the UW-Madison Homecoming committee showed various activities they believe represent home on this campus, but failed to use people from various identities. In other words, everyone in the video was white.
I am a member of the Epsilon Delta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. We were filmed for over an hour in different locations and were told we would be part of this video, but our footage was the only footage left out because it was too dark. Let’s unpack this situation. My sorority, the first Black sorority in the nation, was the only organization filmed that was composed of predominantly students of color and our footage was the only footage that was “too dark.” After viewing the footage, the only thing dark about it is the color of our skin.
Let’s talk about something called White Privilege. The videographer hired by the homecoming committee was a white woman assisted by two other white women. As professionals hired to record footage that represents this university, there is no excuse for them not being able to record Black women. It is a privilege to consider yourself a professional but not know how to make sure students of color are well lit. It is a privilege to realize the only footage you have of students of color is not well lit and simply omit it from the entire video rather than attempting to fix the issue.
Seeing this video made me upset because I took hours out of my schedule to be recorded, but it also made me disappointed in the Alumni Association. With them having so many people on their homecoming committee, how could no one realize that students of color were erased? Where are the gatekeepers? How can anyone look at this video that represents home at this university and not realize that only one population of students here are shown?
I am tired of being erased from this campus as if my parents don’t pay over $10,000 a year for me to go here; as if I am not a student going to class every day; as if I am not a leader in organizations making change on this campus and as if I am not a Badger. I have lived on this campus for the majority of my adulthood and would like to think of this place as home, but home is not a place where you are not wanted or welcome. #HomeIsWhereWiArent is a hash tag students of color created because that is what this video portrayed and that is how we feel. The homecoming video had thousands of shares and comments before I spoke up against it. No one saw a problem with it. Instead, people commented various memories they had on this university like drinking or how the cheese curds and half naked girls jumping into the lake was home for them.
I am tired of having to call white people out when they mess up or fall short of being inclusive. If I am here to be a student, why am I always teaching white people about their wrongs? It is time for those with power and privilege to recognize the way their decisions affect those whose voices are not always heard. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a very outspoken person, but I was raised to always speak up against injustice, which is why I had no option but to call the university out. This university cannot continue to call itself a top institution in the world when they cannot even figure out how to help their students of color feel included and at home on this campus.
Photo credit: Payton Wade