Wisconsin basketball star Nigel Hayes has always made his voice heard when it comes to social issues and especially the one of race. He has used his platform as a student-athlete competing at the highest level to speak on the subject of racism and how it affects him as well as how the NCAA treats student-athletes (as evidenced by his sign at ESPN’s College GameDay a few weeks back).
He took to Twitter to voice his frustrations with the actions of one fan at the Wisconsin game two weekends ago against Nebraska. He also said that something has to be done about the racism he sees around him at the university and here’s his essay in its entirety:
Many people believe that student-athletes of color are immune to the racial injustices that affect other students of color on campus. However, our experiences are not shielded by the ‘W’ we wear on our chest, our experiences are one in the same. We are loved during competition, but then subjected to racial discrimination in our everyday lives too. It is painful that someone in our community would show up to an athletic event with a mask of our sitting president, who happens to look a lot like us, with a noose around his neck. That moment was like a punch in the face to not only student-athletes of color, but also current students, faculty, and alumni of color. This incident was yet another blow and reminder that there are people in this community that may not value diverse populations. When we travel and play in other stadiums, fans have told us to get out of their country, or to go back to Africa, but it hurts to receive that treatment at home. It does not end at overt racial issues, but it is also seen through microaggressions.
Aside from the incidents of racial slurs being flung at us, there are the assumptions that student-athletes of color wouldn’t have been admitted to this university on our merits alone. In actuality, we have to work twice as hard on top of our demanding schedules to prove to professors and classmates that we do belong here. We also have to deal with not being chosen for groups in classes because it’s assumed we are only here for sports and not to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for our future careers. We are fortunate to have many great professors here, but there are those that discourage us not to take their courses because they assume it’s too challenging. Also, fans don’t recognize the pain we feel when they voice their concerns about how raising academic standards will competitively disadvantage our teams, because they assume that student of colors can’t meet them.
Socially, we shouldn’t be called loiterers and threatened to have the police called when we are simply waiting with friends for an Uber. Nor should we have to hear in the dorms, the classroom, or on the street, people refer to us as (expletive) or monkeys. People shouldn’t clutch their bags and cross the street as we approach them. We shouldn’t be commodified for mere entertainment, but respected as individuals with the ideas and the ability to contribute to society.
These issues are in no way localized to UW, this is a national issue, and many universities across the nation need to start addressing how students of color are treated, and here at Wisconsin it starts at Bascom. Wisconsin can not only rely on statements, cultural competency emails and a few surveys to try and mediate this problem. We love the UW and are proud to be STUDENT-athletes here, and truthfully, our positive experiences outweigh the negatives, but no student should have to live through this negative climate. We ask that the university not continue to sweep the collective experiences of the students of color under a rug. So in solidarity with other students on this campus, we implore Chancellor Blank and her cabinet to take action, be visible and leave your ivory tower and speak to the students. Please create real programs, initiate meaningful change and understand that students of color deserve to thrive in this institution just like our peers. We want to be a part of the amazing legacy this university has held for years and years … On Wisconsin.
Hopefully Hayes won’t have to make another stand like this to get his point across, but it’s good to know that there are student-athletes out there who truly care and are willing to bring injustices like this to people’s attention.
[h/t For The Win]