Saunders Hall

Kendall Luton on needing spaces for Black students on campus

Excerpt Description: Kendall Luton explains what he feels like to be the only Black student in his classes, and his belief in the importance of having spaces for Black students to be away from the predominantly white campus and pressures of majority white spaces.

Interviewee Name: Kendall Luton

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “But I think it is important to have a space, especially for minority communities, just because I know I walk into class – especially in the J School – I walk into class and I don’t see another black face, and it’s just like those situations are–. Even though I have grown up with that my entire life they’re still uncomfortable because there’s still a lot of touchy subjects that people might say something, or when it comes to like the ‘black thing’ people are just going to–. All eyes are going to look at you, or you might just like people, heads down and side-eyeing you, like, ‘Is he going to say some- thing?’ and it’s like, ‘No. I’m not going to say–. I’m really not going to entertain you.’ So I think it is important for a space for minority communities, just because it’s exhausting being the only black person in the class because you always have to–. It’s kind of like you have to act like your best self but you also like don’t want to act a certain way for someone just because you’re trying to let them know that just because I’m black doesn’t mean I’m an idiot and doesn’t mean I’m a thug or anything like that. I do smile and say, “Hi. Hello. How are you?” too, just like you do. So, I think it’s important. I think there definitely needs to be a space….But there does definitely need to be a space for minority students just because a lot of minority students walk in, like myself, walk into classes with no other black faces, no other colored faces in the room, or maybe one or two others in a three-hundred lecture hall. That’s uncomfortable. I think out of anything classroom settings are uncomfortable, classroom discussions are uncomfortable. I was taking a media ethics class last year and there were two black people in the class and it was uncomfortable because we talked about Ferguson [,Missouri] a lot. I’m not saying that I’m scared of voicing my opinion or anything like that; it’s just uncomfortable when you bring up situations like Black Lives Matter and everyone’s eyes look at you. Everyone’s eyes shift to you. It’s just like, ‘I’m not the voice of all black people, so do you not have any black people you talk to? You don’t, but still.’ I feel like, out of anywhere on campus, that’s where I feel the most uncomfortable. Even the professors are white, so it’s like if I say anything the likelihood of them being on my side is very low. So it’s kind of like you have students against you, you have professors against you; it’s just like, who’s really here for you? Have I had a person of color as a professor? Patricia Parker, first year, but that’s about all.”

Excerpt Length: 2:25

Interview Date: 2/8/2017

Interview Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Campus Space: Saunders Hall

Citation: Interview with Chris Faison and Kendall Luton by Charlotte Fryar, 8 February 2017, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.