Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an occasion for the nation to remember a man who made great steps for human rights with simple words and peaceful action. In his honor, Pitt organizes an annual day of service in order to continue the message of Dr. King and improve the community. Many students take this event to heart, but what was a day of service to most soon became a living hell for James Q. Vanderberger IV, a freshman and fourth generation legacy at Pitt. Armed with nothing more than his words, a trust fund, and enough white privilege to choke a WASP, he shared his experience with The Black Sheep.
“Degraded. Humiliated. Emotionally whipped,” described Vanderberger, who unwillingly spent his day improving a Pittsburgh neighborhood. “When I first heard of the day of service, I signed up right away, assuming that for one day I would be treated like I am at home: waited on hand and foot. I could not have been more wrong. Now, hear me out, I come from a family of means, so I’ve heard what it’s like to work hard, but this was ridiculous!”
Vanderberger was brave enough to share even the most horrifying details with us. “I was woken up early in the morning, without any warning. My RA grabbed me and without explanation shoved me onto a bus with like 1000 other students. I could barely breath we were packed in so tight! Then we drove for what seemed like weeks until we arrived in a strange land. Immediately, we were split up from our friends and assigned hard labor.”
That’s when things took a turn for the worse. “I must’ve spent a whole hour picking up garbage. My back was aching from the monotony. Our overseers really cracked the whip on us. We only got a break every thirty minutes. No one in the history of this country has ever suffered the way I did. After two hours of this blatant brutality, I couldn’t take it anymore. No man should be subjugated to this kind of treatment.”
What Vanderberger did next took pure, blind, idiotic courage. “I looked into the eyes of my supervisor and told her that enough was enough. I would not pick up any more trash under such cruel conditions. Do you know what she said to me? She said that if I needed some more time for break that it was okay. It’s like she didn’t even hear what I was saying! I didn’t want a longer break, I wanted equality and the only way to get even was by her serving me! Unaffected by her flagrant prejudice, I really decided to let my voice be heard.”
“I have a dream,” shouted Vanderberger, “that one day this university will rise up and give special treatment to rich white kids like me. That it will realize that people like me shouldn’t have to do petty work like this or any work for that matter. That I will be given aid based not on the economic background of my family, but on the color of my skin. That one day I may be able to chug booze and do blow at the table of fraternity without consequence because of how much money my father donates to this university. I have a dream today!”
Unfortunately, we had to cut short our interview with Vanderberger because a large group of students of all genders, races, and sexual preferences gathered together and demanded we hand him over. Driven by their spirit of unity and the memory of Dr. King, we decided this was the best thing to do. We hope that Mr. Vanderberger learns a valuable lesson and his injuries heal quickly.