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Wednesday, April 17, 2024 — Houston, TX

We cannot call Rice exceptional yet

11/4/15 4:18am

Earlier this year, the University of Texas, Austin came under fire for what many called a racist border patrol themed frat party. Media outlets from all over the country reported on the dynamics of the party, how the university administration was responding and what students were saying. In the wake of these events I heard a lot of Rice students expressing what I can only call Rice Exceptionalism: the belief that Rice is inherently different or better than all the other universities across the country. Students said, “That would never happen at Rice,” or “Did they actually think they would get away with promoting an event like that,” or my personal favorite, “ Did no one tell them that was a bad idea?”

Because I had also “taken the red pill” and believed Rice Exceptionalism, I shared these sentiments. It wasn’t until Brown’s College Night that I realized maybe we aren’t as different as we think. Titled “The Presidential Election: Trump ’16: There’s Hell Toupee (Make Brown Great Again!),” College Night included a slew of activities, movies, trivia, food, etc. However, the superlatives activity was most revealing and troubling to me. Among a page-long list of seemingly playful and harmless “most likely to” statements the one that caught my attention read, “Most likely to be a bitch ass nigga.” Originally I thought I read it wrong: There was no way that in 2015 at Rice University a group of students thought it okay to not only give this superlative to a fellow student, but to plaster it all over both elevators in the tower.

Obviously it isn’t the first time I’ve heard this word while at Rice — usually I hear it when the college stacks blast rap on Friday afternoons, or when someone feels close enough to me that they can use the term endearingly. Even though its usage isn’t uncommon, I am often perplexed why people want to use a word that carries centuries of oppression. I pondered this quandary for hours before I decided to address it, ultimately hoping I wouldn’t have to do it all. That I  as one of the few active black students at Brown and former diversity facilitator, wouldn’t have to be the one to point out racial insensitivities. While I got a lot of support and apologies from my peers, I was saddened and disappointed that no one else  stood up and said anything.

If we are truly to be an exceptional place, we must be cognizant of how our actions impact our peers and have the audacity to speak out against injustices. Of course the incident at Brown is drastically different from the one at UT, but both incidents are rooted in ignorance,  inconsideration and disrespect. Don’t get me wrong:  I am extremely blessed and honored to be at Rice, but I definitely believe we have a long way to go before we can honestly be exceptional.

James Carter is a Brown College junior. 

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