Photo campaign highlights racial prejudices on campus
By XUEYING CHEN ’16
The first 40 photos of the “I, Too, Am Wellesley” campaign were published on Tumblr last Friday. The page shows Wellesley students holding signs, some of which read, “You’re not my white savior” and “Yes, I’m a Latin@ in astrophysics. But why are you showing me off as a beacon of diversity instead of actually promoting it?”
The photo project began at Harvard University in early March to publicize the “I, Too, Am Harvard” play that opened the following week. Within a few days of its release, Buzzfeed picked up the campaign, which quickly grew viral. Other colleges across the country and overseas, such as Oxford and Cambridge, launched their own versions of the photo campaign.
Dominique Steele ’16 attended the one-day production of “I, Too, Am Harvard,” which inspired her to start a similar campaign at Wellesley. She currently leads the photo campaign by herself.
“One of my friends was part of the ‘I, Too Am Oxford’ event and Princeton’s was really cool, so I was like, ‘We need to keep this alive,’” Steele said.
Originally, the campaign sought to shed light on experiences of black students at Harvard and highlight racial prejudice and microaggressions that they have encountered. The initiative expanded to include other students of color at Oxford and Princeton.
“I, Too, Am Wellesley” has followed suit. Steele decided last Monday to invite students outside of Ethos, the black student organization on campus, to participate.
“I think it’s critical to recognize that people of all ethnic backgrounds experience similar oppressions or prejudices on campus. In order to accurately get a consensus of what’s going on in this institution, we need to acknowledge that all of them exist,” Steele said.
“I, Too, Am Wellesley” addresses micro-aggressions similar to those that occur throughout the nation and world. One of the students at Oxford wrote on his sign, “You’re mixed race? Do you have identity issues? #50shadesofbrown,” and a Wellesley student wrote, “You need to figure out your identity and stick with it. My mixed race identity is more complicated than that.”
The students on the campaign believe they need to make their presence known at Wellesley. Mallika Govindan ’14 believes the campaign will encourage prospective students of color to attend.
“When I was applying to schools, I couldn’t tell if there were other people like like me there,” Gonvindan stated.
Hiba Abdulrazzak ’14 claims that the College community generally assumes all Wellesley students share similar backgrounds, especially in terms of socioeconomic status. Her sign says, “‘You are a Wellesley student, I am sure your life has always been fair to you.’ — My econ prof.”
“It’s good to let them know that we’re not all the same because I’ve heard this from faculty and staff. It’s very frustrating,” Abdulrazzak said. “They think that we live the rosy life.”
“I, Too, Am Wellesley” is affiliated with WAAM-SLAM2, the student movement pushing for the implementation of a Latin@ studies minor and ethnic studies major, among other demands.
“I think it does tie into WAAM-SLAM2 because of the [administration] can so easily dismiss us and dismiss our histories that, not being a big presence on this campus, we do need to let them know that we have these complex histories,” Gonvindan said.
Steele hopes the photo campaign will stay strong throughout the summer in order to start a dialogue in the fall.
“I want to be able to continue to have a dialogue next semester so we can work toward disassembling a lot of these microaggressions that are prevalent on campus,” Steele said. “I believe that if students find it important, which clearly they do because they’re showing up for this, we’ll make it work.”
Steele expects to photograph more students this week in order to reach a goal of 60 total photos. Even though students will begin studying for finals at the end of this week, she hopes they will take a minute to check out the “I, Too, Am Wellesley” campaign while perusing the internet during study breaks. Students can view the initiative at itooamwellesley.tumblr.com.