Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Not my Miami

“This isn’t the Miami I went to,” a Miami alumnus said, as if change isn’t inevitable within 30 years. “This is not my Miami.”

The Miami in question is Miami University, the college I am currently attending and the one where the alumnus got his business degree 30 years ago. With my co-major in art education and art therapy, it should’ve been expected that the “Miami experience” we both were going to get would be quite different.

I know that nostalgia glamorizes the past, but his Miami with a racist depiction of a Native American prancing around the football field should not be a contender for which version of Miami is correct. Hell, with just one “Miami University racism” Google search the page fills with a plethora of articles on racist events, the most recent one being from December of 2023. 

He denounced this school not due to the incredible accounts of racism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, transphobia and everything else swept under the rug with a president-signed apology email, but once I came out as nonbinary. That’s when he no longer claimed the school. This is no longer his Miami. 

The Miami I don’t claim is the Miami that sends out roughly three emails a month reporting sexual assault on campus — God only knows how many go unreported. The Miami I don’t claim is the Miami that promised LGBT+ students an inclusive living space while dismissing the multiple accounts of harassment faced in the allotted safe space. 

The Miami I don’t claim is the Miami where a sorority was under fire over an alleged leaked text exchange between a member and recruit, asking her to delete pictures she had posted with a black girl as it’s a “bad look” for the sorority. The Miami I don’t claim is the Miami that upholds a predominantly white, rich, straight, cis-gendered demographic that believes we can move on from the past because of a mascot change, acknowledgment of Freedom Summer, acknowledgment of the Myaamia people and a couple of required DEI training modules.

The Miami that is not the alumnus’ is the one that promised to educate adolescents, and instead “turned them woke” by providing them with the independence to think beyond the constructs of which they were raised. My “wokeness” was the opportunity to explore my identity and become confident in myself, as my independence tested my abilities to care for myself and navigate my own happiness.

My Miami is the “woke” Miami. I am not ashamed to claim that title. My community within the art education program taught me to be my most compassionate, empathetic, optimistic and truest self. Without my major, I would’ve never learned about Freedom Summer, or the Myaamia tribe, or worked with mentors to teach about the culture that was ignored for so many years. 

The Miami that is not mine is the one that promises radical inclusivity while catering to the same group of individuals since 1809, and only 30 years ago.

Frankie McKnight is a junior art education and art therapy co-major. Alongside academics and keeping up with their art practice, they are the vice president of the Visual Arts Club here on Miami’s campus. They also co-wrote a press release for the 2024 Preservice Art Educator Conference held in the Art Building last February with two other art ed peers.

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