Taking strides to make the world change

Channing Holman

Growing up, I was taught to work harder because I was a black female and things wouldn’t be handed to me. I knew that people wouldn’t want to see me succeed because of the color of my skin. My mom told me at a very young age that I was different because I was black, but I needed to be proud of my culture and my ancestors who fought so that I could have a better life.

My mother is a postal clerk at the United States Postal Service and my father is a lieutenant at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Life was never handed to me on a silver platter, but like my parents, I had to work hard to achieve the simple things in life. So I worked hard athletically and academically for one goal: to attend the University of Texas at Austin. And I did just that.

So I came to UT wide-eyed, in awe that I was where many students wanted to be, and I was so excited to begin a new chapter of my life. I knew UT was a predominantly white institution, especially based on the reactions I received from people in my hometown when I told them UT was my school of choice. I also knew I would be a minority once again, but I refused to let it deter me from getting a UT education.

Reality set in during orientation, when there was only one other black girl in my wing and again when I was automatically labeled as an athlete because I was black. I have been the only black in a class of 100, and I have been stared at like I was on display in a museum, perhaps because I’m black. I’ve been overlooked during office hours because the white girl’s question was more important, and I’ve been called “the n-word” [racial epithet] while walking on Dean Keeton, which is considered part of campus. I am not an extinct species, but I am one of the blacks that represent 4.5 percent of this university.

While I graduated from my high school with honors and in the top 10 percent, I also had a slew of organizations that I was a part of that made me a well-rounded candidate; it takes more than the top 10 percent to survive at UT. I was not privileged as a legacy nor is my father on the Board of Regents. I did everything the person sitting next to me did to attend this institution, and my hard work ethic is the reason I am still here in my third year of college.

So when Austin hosted a rally to support Trayvon Martin, I was there in my black hoodie marching to City Hall. When The Daily Texan ran the racist cartoon portraying the case, I was angry, upset, disappointed and embarrassed first as a UT student, second as a black person attending this institution and finally as a journalist.

We all learn as a child that we are all different and come from various backgrounds, but publishing a cartoon to make light of a teenager’s death is unacceptable especially when the killer was recently charged nearly two months after the shooting. “Colored” is not a term that should be used in 2012 because of its racial connotation.

His name is spelled T-R-A-Y-V-O-N, not T-R-E-Y-V-O-N, and George Zimmerman, who was denoted as “the big, bad white man,” is both white and Hispanic. The cartoon was neither satirical nor funny. Bottom line: A 17-year-old was shot because he was racially profiled, or in Zimmerman’s words, “suspicious.” If Martin looked suspicious, then I must look suspicious every time I wear a hoodie when I’m sick, I’m cold or it’s raining.

UT has a racist past and continually tries to portray itself as a diverse campus, but a statement such as the cartoon takes this university back decades. If “what starts here changes the world,” then this institution should take strides in making the world change.

As UT students, our newspaper should reflect the student body, not just a percentage. In light of the recent events involving The Daily Texan, I hope the publication takes this opportunity to examine its editorial board and staff and also remember its audience: the UT student body composed of Africans, African-Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, Puerto Ricans, Italians, Brazilians and so many more. Just like students here at UT are of all different shades, there are also different shades of talented journalists just waiting for their voices to be heard.

Holman is a journalism junior.