OP-ED: Unspoken: The reality of racism at AUB

Olfa Saadaoui
Contributing Writer

A progressive, diverse, inclusive campus: a space where everyone is allowed to enjoy their own uniqueness away from stereotypes and judgements, where no one is prone to injustice or to segregation based on whatever difference they are endowed with. This is AUB.

Or is it not? Is the AUB campus really the safest space for differences to bloom? An outsider perspective will always see the shiny image AUB is trying to build and preserve. A deeper insight into the community and the struggles of its members will bring the unheard stories of racial segregation to light.

As unbelievable and outdated as this phenomenon sounds, it still exists. Turning a blind eye to it will do nothing but further instill it and normalize the actions of its beholders. I have heard stories that have shocked me and kept me thinking of how people could possibly get dragged behind such vicious nature. What kind of superiority complex are we dealing with?

Having a Rwandan roommate, and then joining the African Club where I was welcomed as a cabinet member, my eyes have been opened to stories of the Sub-Saharan African community in AUB.  

A student, E.M., who has requested to remain anonymous, had their education jeopardized because of the intolerance they had to deal with. As a victim of a hostile and inconsiderate environment, E.M. thinks it is time to leave.

“I know I won’t get such a good education in my country, but I think I simply can’t continue living here,” they said. Convincing M.E. to stay has not been an easy task as no promises to change the current situation could be made. M.E. isn’t the only person I encountered who has clearly faced racial discrimination.

Another student who requested to remain anonymous, C.I., claimed she applied for a winter internship at a center she refused to name, along with three other friends, knowing that the internship does not require any technical skills apart from data entry and small administrative tasks. After waiting until all three friends had been contacted, no one replied to her with an answer.

“I don’t want to assume they didn’t get back to me just because I am African. But they should’ve showed me otherwise,” said C.I.

On a bright note, huge efforts are pursued by different clubs and groups on campus to protect the rights of minorities and their freedoms. Nevertheless, if we advocate the rights of certain groups at the expense of others then are we really promoting justice and equality? Social justice will only be reached if we believe that whoever is discriminated against needs advocacy, regardless of who they are.

As for now, we need to move a step further from simply sensitizing people about how important tolerance is. Frivolous and nonsensical minds will still long for ascending their own self esteem through demeaning others’. However, to sustain a healthy environment and truly meet the university’s seemingly high standards, we need to address those who witness acts of inhumane discrimination and compel them to speak up.

We need to learn to listen to the unheard.

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