By Raven Ash
CJ Cunningham, president of the Black Student Union chapter at Quincy University, is no stranger to stereotypes.
While a student at the University of Iowa, Cunningham never felt out of place and had lived in Iowa City ten years prior to becoming a student there. However, while parking his car in a university parking lot, he was approached by campus security.
“Student parking only sir,” they said to him.
Cunningham was confused as to why security was making the assumption that he was not a student.
They said Cunningham’s Illinois license plates were the reason for stopping him. Many other students at Iowa also drive Illinois registered vehicles.
“For the first time, basically since I moved to Iowa, I did feel out of place. I was like, man this is crazy. Someone really does see me as unfit to be here,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham shared his story during the Shattering Stereotypes event held on the QU campus on March 19th.
Despite the cloudy skies, cool breeze and mist, many students gathered at the pickleball court to listen to others share their stories and shatter their own stereotypes.
During the event, students were provided a plate and a sharpie, then instructed to write a phrase associated with their personal stereotype on the plate.
“It involved so much money,” Cora Newbold said.
Newbold shared with a group about how her stereotype as a woman is a possible cause for not being able to obtain a higher paying job as a female welder.
“I had been welding for about a year there, but instead they put someone who was on high pressure chamber, a tester, and put him on the job that required reading the blueprints and he had never welded in his life. I went to school for that, and I walked out that day,” Newbold said.
After participants had finished their plates and signed a safety waiver, it was time to take those unwanted stereotypes to the ground.
Students each took turns throwing their plates onto the pickleball court and watching the plates shatter to symbolize conquering their stereotypes.
This event put together by Rosie’s Resistance, Multicultural Affairs, and Black Student Union allowed students to take time to improve their mental health by being around others who feel labeled by an unwanted stereotype that may be dragging them down.
“I think that it is important for Women’s Month to come out and shatter these stereotypes,” Kiana Reed said.
But stereotypes may not only be based upon gender. Stereotypes have been known to label groups of every kind.
“I would say everyone has a stereotype thrust upon them that may be unwanted,” Cunningham said.