On the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2021, I was in my car at the stoplight where Sorority Row and Jackson Ave intersect. While I was waiting for the light to turn green, a red, lifted, Ford truck pulled up beside me. There were a few college-aged white males inside that I didn’t pay any mind to. When the light turned green, however, all of my attention shifted to them. I heard an incredibly loud horn that made me jump and give them a look that was filled with disgust and fear. I soon realized that this horn was not a regular car horn: it was the first few notes of the song “Dixie,” the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy.
I then noticed that the man in the passenger seat was filming me. This proved that this wasn’t some offhand incident. The boys in the truck wanted to make a mockery out of me. They reduced me to nothing but a Black girl whose racial identity they could use to get a laugh out of.
Immediately following the incident, I was incredibly anxious. I didn’t know where that video was going. Would they post the video on social media? How many people would watch it and laugh? I have since, however, had a change of heart. I don’t care if their video goes viral. I don’t care if it gets posted on Instagram accounts like @oldrowrebs or @barstoololemiss. I have no reason to be embarrassed.
If the boys filmed when they approached my vehicle, people would see a sticker on the back of my car that reads: “Love People. Be Genuine. Don’t Stop.”
I usually don’t have an issue following any of the words on that sticker, but I have no love for those boys. I didn’t deserve to have that happen to me. My pain is not something that should be exploited or laughed at.
Although I do not have any love for these boys, I do have a genuine message for them: your act of racial trauma against me was not funny. Your actions were meant to embarrass me, but the shame does not lie with me. The shame lies with you. You should be ashamed for finding the enslavement, disenfranchisement and trauma of my ancestors funny. Your families and communities should be ashamed for raising people that think it is okay to come to the UM and terrorize fellow students and members of the Oxford community. Your actions were not a mistake or “boys being boys.” The actions you chose to take against me were an irreversible and irredeemable act of violence and ugliness.
I also have a genuine message for all UM students. This is not the same Ole Miss that generations before us have attended. Please continue to fight for equality inside and outside of the classroom. Trailblazers like Don Cole, James Meredith and Dorothy Henderson did not face hardships for us to be silent in the face of oppression. It is unacceptable to not allow for your voice to be heard.
Posting a black square on your Instagram feed over a year ago was not enough. It is going to be hard and uncomfortable, but it is imperative to have tough conversations with family members, significant others and friends about the injustices that are happening everywhere. Dismantling oppressive systems can only begin when people are willing to use their voices to stand up to their peers. Each and every member of the UM family has a voice that has the power to stand up to injustice. It takes everyone everywhere to get rid of injustice and oppression everywhere.
If you have experienced or witnessed an act of bias or injustice while at UM, a great way to respond is to file a BERT report. Filing a BERT report is a way for the University to track incidents of bias. It is also a way for people to get the support and education necessary after an incident of bias occurs.
Janelle Minor is a freshman majoring in public policy leadership from Oxford.