An advisor to the University of Michigan student government wrote a letter to the school’s Board of Regents last month complaining that a campus multicultural center is being “colonized” and “oppressed” by white students.
Byron Brooks, a graduate student in social work and education and an advisor to the school’s Anti-Racism Commission, states in his letter that after “observing campus conditions and hosting listening tours,” an issue of “inequity” has become evident: white students are “crowding” students of color who are seeking a safe campus space.
Brooks notes the Trotter Multicultural Center began as Trotter House, a cultural center for black students. But now, “the very students who fought for Trotter’s inception are being oppressed through the power and privilege that is embedded within our community.”
He continues: “In my two semesters of being a student here on campus, not only have I been informed by fellow students but, I have witnessed with my own eyes, white student organizations kicking black and brown students out of spaces within trotter [sic] because their white organizations reserved the space. It’s time that we as The Michigan Community transform our Air into Action, and uphold the values of equity by protecting, and reestablishing Trotter as a safe space for people of color.”
Brooks told The Michigan Daily that the incursion of white students into Trotter “made him feel like safe spaces were not being respected on campus,” and that whites’ occupation disregarded the “sacredness” of the center.
The aspiring “hip-hop preacher” says the Board of Regents “should enforce respect” for the Trotter Center and similar spaces.
University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said UMich is a national leader “in promoting an inclusive campus climate” and that Trotter serves all students on campus: “Trotter does not discriminate against who can use the facility.”
Broekhuizen pointed out that minority student organizations get “first priority for reservations” at Trotter. When that deadline passes, any student group can then reserve a spot.
According to his university bio, Brooks is “passionate about social justice [and] equity” and “is particularly interested in exploring ways to dismantle systemic racism from marginalized communities, and the educational system.” He is founder of the non-profit From The Hood For The Hood which, according to the Detroit Free Press, is “dedicated to the development of young people in the community and being a catalyst for social justice while also combating homelessness.”
IMAGE: University of Michigan screencap