A series of racially charged incidents involving blackface on the University of Oklahoma campus has caused some black students at Oklahoma Christian University to feel uneasy.
The first incident involved a white female student dressed in blackface and referring to herself using racial slurs on social media alongside a female friend not wearing blackface. The second saw a man taking a stroll near the University of Oklahoma campus with blackface covering the portions of his face not already covered with sunglasses.
These incidents, occurring 30 miles south of Oklahoma Christian in Norman, caused some black students at Oklahoma Christian to think about how the lack of racial diversity and culture has affected them during their time on campus. According to the official website for Oklahoma Christian, the percentage of students on campus made up of ethnic minorities is 27 percent. This has caused some students, such as junior Black Student Union member Thomas Caldwell, to feel as though the university needs to do more.
“There have been times where I would just be walking with my headphones in, and I’d get weird looks from some, or even the refusal to look at me from others,” Caldwell said. “There was even a point where a guy was posted on the clock tower as if I was going to do something to him or jump him.”
Thomas said he knows the looks and actions come from a place of ignorance, so he aims to simply change the narrative around the stereotypes.
“I got to the point where I tried to desensitize to the looks and stuff,” Caldwell said. “I think as a black man, that feeling is never going to go away, so I have to just be me and make the best out of the situation.”
Sophomore Simone Holmes said she also feels pressure to make others feel comfortable around her, rather than the other way around. According to Holmes, there is more university administration can do for students of color.
“When minority students do come to OC, they feel as though they are on the outside looking in,” Holmes said. “The majority of students at OC are Caucasian, and so it’s hard to feel at ‘home’ like they advertised.”
As Vice President of the Black Student Union, Holmes said the racial gap at Oklahoma Christian makes it hard to do her job. She said her job is to bring everyone together, but making Caucasian students feel comfortable is something which is tough, based on the climate of the campus.
“For me, it is what you do even though the gap is still there,” Holmes said. “You just have to go out of your way and be intentional in making that racial gap seem more bearable.”
While incidents like those at the University of Oklahoma have not happened at Oklahoma Christian, both Holmes and Caldwell said there is always a possibility. Holmes said this possibility prompted her to think about how the campus and its minority students could better educate those who do not understand their culture, something she said comes with time.
“I think we all come to that point in different ways, but I think it’s important to know that they will never fully understand what it is like to be a minority,” Holmes said. “When you come to that realization, it makes everything more clear in the sense that we have to take them where they are and be able to teach them and educate them along the way.”
Oklahoma Christian offers those moments of education during its Black Student Union chapel, which meets every Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies, room 128.