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We stand with all the Irish

| Tuesday, September 1, 2020

When I proudly responded “Notre Dame” to the question “Where are you going to college this fall?” during the summer of 2018, I was met with roughly the same answer from every individual who asked — “You’re going to love it there; it’s a great community.” Though I knew of Notre Dame’s caliber and nobility, mentors, faculty and students affirmed that I was beginning a journey with a family I would live with for the rest of my life. I was excited to be part of a community so elite and special, yet so global and diverse.

I was provided with the image that the Notre Dame community did not only encompass those living and working in Notre Dame, Ind., but that the University took pride in its extended family of former faculty and staff, donors, sports fans and the population of the city of South Bend. I knew the representation of those who looked like me, a Black woman, was small, but I believed that the Notre Dame community would support me regardless, because I was the Notre Dame community. 

I have found I was proven wrong, but I was proven differently. 

As a member of the Black community at Notre Dame, I am blessed with a box seat view to witness the incredible and unique stories of our Black students, and as I hear the backgrounds of each individual, I learn more about my own. This invitation to connect with Black students on a familial level in a school filled predominantly with white faces became vitally important because my Blackness is not something I could simply leave in Ohio; I am a Black Notre Dame student, and the “Black” prefix will never be eliminated. Though we make up just 3.56% of the student population, we do not simply add diversity; we provide intelligence, creativity and innovation. Our stories rise from beautiful and sometimes painful origins of intersectionality, and our different life experiences that somehow result in similar life lessons unify us as the Black community of Notre Dame. 

While Notre Dame’s Black community continues to take pride in their University, racism continues to sever the bond between the entire Notre Dame community and its Black students. The Instagram account @black.at.nd highlights the anonymous voices of present and former students and faculty and their experiences with racism on this campus. The incidents from student’s pasts continue to echo through Notre Dame’s buildings as several first-year students have already detailed their experiences on the Instagram page after only attending college for three short weeks. 

Furthermore, an Instagram post from @ndfootball expressing its solidarity with the University’s Black student athletes forced several so-called lifelong “fans” to throw in the towel of their support for the Fighting Irish. The comment section was riddled with racist and misinformed remarks regarding how un-Catholic the University was for authorizing a public display supporting terrorism, when the post simply expressed the University’s call to defend its Black student’s lives in the face of racism, systemic oppression and bigotry. Several long time “supporters” of the Irish provided the Instagram account with an ultimatum, demanding that it renounce its message, or their 50+ years of fanhood would be apathetically thrown out the window. 

I have already expressed my thoughts on these comments in the post’s comment section, but in 1953, the first black Notre Dame football player touched the field on gameday, and I find it hard to believe how so many “fans” missed the past 67 years filled with Black Domers, who are, in fact, included in the community they claim to support.

Our Notre Dame community is made up of beautiful, intelligent and talented pieces, yet in particular facets, we have failed to hold the pieces together and stand as a unified community. Our acceptance letters into this institution should be the only qualification needed to prove we belong here. When we signed up to be part of the Notre Dame community, we were tasked with the responsibility to protect and defend each other, because that is what communities do. How do we plan to succeed in our futures without the guidance and support from our peers and mentors, regardless of their skin color? We as Black Notre Dame students love and support this University, or else we wouldn’t continue to attend. Why is it so difficult for many of those in the community to support us? Why have some made it a political agenda to support the lives of those we attend classes with, share lunch with and sleep across the room from? 

Though our Notre Dame community has worked hard in eliminating the prejudice within it, we still have work to do. We cannot call ourselves a community if we all do not support the lives of those in it. Much like the students who clapped back at Instagram commenters, defending their peers, all former students, current students, faculty, staff, donors and sports fans who say they support Notre Dame and are part of the Notre Dame community must be committed to eradicating any message that would insinuate hate belongs on this campus. That support is the Notre Dame community I believe in, and that is the pride I want to have in the University and all the people included in it. 

Sydni Brooks is junior at Notre Dame majoring in English with a supplemental major in Pre-health and a minor in Africana Studies. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, she has made Flaherty Hall her campus home. She aspires to be a gynecologist to serve women from all backgrounds in the medical field. Sydni can be reached at [email protected] or @sydnimaree22 on twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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