(From left to right) Gereme Spraggins, Grace Marshall and Zay Iton are Hutchinson Community College students from more diverse, out-of-state cities. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Hutchinson has more than 42,000 people, of which 87.9% are white and 4.3% are Black. These students describe their experiences being black in Hutch.
By Bailey Pennycuff / Co-Sports Editor
Scenario – you are walking around Walmart, trying to find some items to purchase. Once you have everything you need, you go to self-checkout because it is faster. You scan all your items, bag them up and walk out of the store with a smile from the worker by the door, as well as a friendly “have a nice day.”
Seems like a common interaction. Maybe for some.
However, something as simple as going through self-checkout is not a luxury some Black people in Hutchinson get to have.
Sophomore Gereme “Worm” Spraggins, a football player from Baltimore, can attest to not being able to go through self-checkout judgement free.
“The coaches have told us to not even go through self-checkout at Walmart. People are just automatically going to think you’re stealing. It’s not worth the judgement,” Spraggins said. “Last year, the coaches made sure to tell us we were not allowed to go to the State Fair. People already judge us so hard, let alone at night in public. We just had to stay locked up in the dorms.”
What most white people in Hutchinson see as an uncomplicated task, Black people might deal with hateful eyes glaring at them, sometimes pointing, and sometimes even hearing racial slurs.
“As soon as I’m walking in a store or fast food place, it’s instant judgement. Some white people literally look at me with shame,” Spraggins said. “And one time, at KwikShop, a (white) man in a truck was just staring at me and my friends with his head out of the window. Before we left, he was screaming racial slurs at all of us.”
It’s not always places like stores or gas stations that racism is common.
“Every single day when I walk into class, I get so many stares. All because of the color of my skin,” said Grace Marshall, a freshman from Kansas City, Missouri.
Sometimes, it is difficult to express when something is unwanted. Racism is always unwanted.
“One thing (white people) don’t realize is that most of their thoughts about us are not true. They are negative. Like people not trusting me, people accusing us for things and how people think we don’t have enough education because we’re black is heartbreaking to me,” Marshall said. “A friend of mine was judged because they thought he didn’t have enough money to pay for his food because of the color of his skin.”
Racism is often associated with hatred, rightfully. Football player Zay Iton, Houston freshman, said he believes “hatred has no home.”
“I really do question my safety sometimes. You really gotta keep your head on a swivel. Even in the dorms,” Iton said.
Standing up to racism can be difficult to do. However, Marshall has some experience with racism and dealing with it.
“I was judged based on my skin color and appearance from my roommate. I noticed that she became very tense and she spoke of how it was hard to talk to me, even though I’m a listening ear,” Marshall said. “Once I realized talking wasn’t doing anything to help the situation, and I had heard her talking bad about me using racial slurs, I finally went and talked to my RA. I felt that was the right thing to do.”
After contacting her RA and speaking with the Residence Life office, Marshall’s roommate was removed from the hall.
Many Black people in Hutchinson do not feel safe in various places. Most public places can be stressful scenes for a Black person.
“The football facility is really the best place. We all feel safe, we feel comfortable together,” Spraggins said.
On the other hand, Spraggins has also noticed people being afraid of him.
“I have literally seen people that do not know me at all, and they look so scared to be around me. It makes me feel so unwanted,” Spraggins said.
Spraggins also said he believes a major reason racism is prominent in Hutchinson is due to a lack of education.
“People are so ignorant. We have so much ignorance going on right now. People need to educate themselves. Then, if everyone is well-informed, I believe racism can be reduced,” Spraggins said.
Compared to where he grew up, Hutchinson is a different environment for him.
“Back at home, there’s really not as much racism. If someone’s being racist, it wouldn’t be tolerated. If you speak up about racism here, you might be putting your life in danger,” Spraggins said.
Life is also different for him socially.
“If I were to be talking to 10 different white girls right now, I guarantee you, at least eight of those girls would keep it a secret from their families. I’d say eight out of 10 white parents discriminate against black people, especially if they were to date their daughter,” Spraggins said.
For some, racism is just an ugly part of life that probably will not be changed within their lifetime.
“It’s really 10-to-one out here. Nothing you can do about it – you just gotta smile,” Iton said. “(White people) don’t realize that we’re not going nowhere – ever. We’re just vibing, and they’re hating for no reason.”
Racism is something that can make people feel horrible about themselves. Oftentimes, it is difficult to accept yourself when others are being hateful.
“I want all other races to know that being Black is hard and you’re always, at some point, going to feel like a target. No matter where I go, I’m always going to feel different,” Marshall said.