Nearly half a century after a federal judge forced the University of Georgia to admit black students, race still is an issue at UGA, students on campus say.
UGA still has a predominantly white student body, even though the number of blacks and other minority students has climbed dramatically in the past five years.
“I’m always conscious of being black,” said second-year student Shandrea Hardeman.
And sometimes, when she sees students cross to the other side of the street to avoid her, she thinks it’s probably because she’s black. But those incidents are rare, and when students do encounter racism these days, it’s more hidden, they say.
“I have never experienced blatant, hateful racism on campus,” said Josh Delaney, president of the university’s Black Student Union.
But Delaney and other black students still feel the sting of racism.
“If I’m walking down the street and someone passes by and moves way out of my way, I tend to think it’s because I’m black,” Hardeman said.
Even though legal segregation is gone, other kinds of segregation and discrimination remain, students said.
“There’s different races here, but everybody stays within their same groups, for the most part,” said UGA library worker and recent UGA graduate Ambre Reed.
“There’s always seemed to be somewhat of a divide at the University of Georgia between, this is what the white students do and this what the black students do, and it was kind of an unspoken thing,” said Warren [UGA graduate Will Warren, an alumni member of historically black Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity], who is white. “But why is it that way, and should it be that way in 2010?”
Black students still can feel shut out, said Rodd Cargill, vice president of the UGA Phi Beta Sigma chapter.
But students are not segregating themselves because of outright racism, he said.
“People want to fall into their comfort zone, and not really give people a fair chance. It’s both sides,” he said.
Even when black students are invited to join majority-white groups, minority students may wonder why.
“It feels sometimes like a token. You feel like they want to reach a certain quota. But I don’t think it’s a conscious thing,” said junior LeMona Wyatt, a vice president of the Black Student Union.
“We have a lot of diversity events, but they’re more geared toward minorities,” Reed said.
“You end up talking to a bunch of black people about being black,” Hardeman said.