My race shouldn't be the only thing that defines me

Alexis Faire

Race was always apparent in my life – growing up in a family with a retired military father and in a small town close to a military base – but it was never an issue. I was friends with people of different backgrounds, and my parents always told me stories about my family history.

Then, I started my freshman year in fall 2013. Sure, I expected college to come with its own ups and downs, and I knew the University was nationally recognized for various good and bad reasons. But I didn’t expect the University to be in the center of a racial situation – a situation that completely changed my outlook 
on life.

On Sept. 11, 2013, The Crimson White published The Final Barrier, and I wondered how my dream school could have negatively made national news.

A black woman – one who had a great GPA, was at the top of her class and had a direct link to the University – was denied a bid to every Panhellenic sorority because of the color of her skin. Although I wasn’t directly affected, I, as a black woman, felt personally drawn to the situation. In that moment, for the first time, I realized my race could 
potentially carry a negative connotation.

I love my culture, and I love who I am, but my race should not be the only thing that defines me.

Fifty years. It had been 50 years since the desegregation of the University. It had been 50 years since George Wallace stood in the doorway of Foster Auditorium in an attempt to stop Vivian Malone and James Hood from entering. So, why did it seem as though history was repeating itself?

Yes, I must admit, since then the integration of the greek community has improved. But why weren’t people more eager to handle the problem before the University was caught in a public relations nightmare?

I joined The Crimson White, partly because I needed the experience to prepare myself for my future career, but also because I wanted to help produce important content for the community that will encourage people to discuss these topics. Growing up, my parents taught me the value of hard work, but I knew I would have to work ten times harder in the professional world because I am a black woman. The idea of being told I cannot achieve my goals because of the color of my skin encourages me to prove those who doubt me wrong.

When I started working at the CW, I expected it to be difficult to receive a leadership position, but I continued to work hard, and my hard work paid off quickly. After spending one year at the CW, I was promoted to Chief Copy Editor, as well as a member of the Editorial Board.

Because the CW gave me this opportunity by trusting my dedication and work ethic instead of judging me based on the color of my skin, I will be forever grateful. The CW’s acceptance of me extends the possibilities for future students of color to advance the organization after my time at the University is over. It is a blessing and a burden to know that my work isn’t just for the betterment of my career, but for students who will want to come after me.

It’s time for us to remove the uncomfortable wall – through such events as those held for Black History Month – and learn more about each other’s cultural backgrounds and talk about it.

Whenever I am conversing – whether it is with one person or a group of people – and race becomes the topic of conversation, I immediately notice the glances and nervousness of the person speaking.

The University of Alabama is and always will be my dream school, but I still believe it needs to improve on diversity – not just within the greek community but as an entire institution.

With the creation of the University’s Intercultural Diversity Center, students have the opportunity to express their concerns and spread equality on campus, and I am excited to witness the University take those steps in order to achieve that goal. We’re all different, and we all come from different walks of life. The sooner we learn about each other and accept those differences, the easier it would be to understand.

With that being said, I am not here to speak on behalf of the entire African-American community. My experiences at the University have made me realize not everywhere I go will be like my small hometown. I realize change cannot happen overnight, and I know some people do not want to change. But we will never know what could happen until someone takes that first step.

Sometimes I’ll walk by Foster Auditorium and think; I think about those who fought, those who strived and those who conquered, leaving the legacies they created behind. Then, I think about those who continue to fight, strive and conquer. I hope to one day leave my legacy as well.

Alexis Faire is a junior majoring in 
journalism. She is the Chief Copy Editor of The Crimson White.