‘You don't sound black, you sound smart’

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iol scitech march 14 harvard tumblr www.itooamharvard.tumblr.com Website screenshot

Washington - Black students at Harvard University, appropriating a line from a celebrated African-American poet, are harnessing social media to challenge racial stereotypes - and inspiring similar blogs across the Atlantic.

I, Too, Am Harvard is a Tumblr blog, viewed more than 235 000 times as of Thursday, in which 63 students reveal some of the more frustrating and condescending remarks they've encountered at the Ivy League school.

“You don't sound black, you sound smart,” recounted one student, who like the others inscribed the comment on a handheld blackboard.

“You're the whitest black person I know,” recalled another, while a third student informed white peers: “The lack of diversity in this classroom does not make me the voice of all black people.”

Similar blogs have since popped up at Oxford and Cambridge universities in Britain, and at some American campuses such as the University of Iowa.

The blog coincides with an eponymous play based on interviews with black Harvard students that takes its title from “I, Too, Am America” by the late African-American poet Langston Hughes.

“Our voices often go unheard on this campus, our experiences are devalued, our presence is questioned,” the blog states.

“This project is our way of speaking back, of claiming this campus, of standing up to say: We are here. This place is ours. We, TOO, are Harvard.”

Just over 1 100 of Harvard's 21 000 students are African-American, according to its provost's office.

The core of the student body hails from higher-income white American families who can shoulder the $56 000 cost of tuition and accommodation. - Sapa-AFP

On the web: www.itooamharvard.tumblr.com

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