Beneath the Skin

Imagine being accused of stealing because of the color of your skin.

Ferris senior psychology major Quillian Murphy, who is black, was accused of stealing cigarettes while working his midnight shift at a gas station in East Detroit.

“I was the only one on that shift that was a black employee and didn’t smoke,” Murphy said. “When I confronted her she called me a liar and said ‘I know you stole something, I just can’t figure out what yet. But when I do…’ I quit right away. Maybe the manager just had bad experiences with African Americans in the past and assumed we all stole, but no matter what, that’s racism.”

Assumptions can also open opportunities for learning and understanding, according to Murphy. He recalled a situation that helped a few of his residents overcome their feelings on racism when he was a Resident Advisor a few years ago.

“[Murphy’s residents] openly admitted that it wasn’t that they didn’t like black people, they just hear what they are known for and prefer not to be around them,” Murphy said. “They used to say black jokes all the time so I sat with them and listened to them for hours and let them get it all out.”

Eventually they started to notice they were hurting someone who looked out for them and helped them when they needed it, according to Murphy. The jokes became real and harmful when they were directly targeting a person.

One of his residents recently thanked Murphy for helping him become the man he is today. He even invited Murphy to be his best man in his wedding.

Growing up in East-side Detroit made Murphy a more logical man. He doesn’t believe the racism he has dealt with stemmed from the fact that he was black.

“I attribute it to the fact that maybe I did something stupid or maybe the person is just uneducated about who I am and what I stand for,” Murphy said.

Murphy is involved at Ferris through the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Student Psychology Association, Alpha Chi Rho and is the president and founder of Leaders Inspiring for Outstanding Noteworthy Service (LIONS).

LIONS is a student organization geared to help students find leadership and embrace diversity through advocacy and community service. In a few weeks, Murphy said LIONS should be an official organization on campus.

The motto of LIONS is ‘You don’t need a crown to be king.’

“I noticed a lot of leadership organizations on campus have an e-board and general members type setting and I feel it doesn’t need to be that way,” Murphy said. “We don’t need titles to do what we do.”

Ferris senior construction management major Cory Armstrong met Murphy four years ago when they lived in Pickell Hall. Over the last four years, they have grown close, now calling each other family.

“He’s an exceptional leader, an awesome friend, probably the nicest guy you will ever meet,” Armstrong said. “I can honestly say Q is just overall a good person, someone I am truly happy to have the pleasure of meeting.”

Murphy will be the first in his family to graduate from college.

“I don’t let my race get in the way of me living out my dreams, my hopes and my ambitions,” Murphy said. “I’m 22 and in college. According to statistics, I should have been in jail a few times, have a couple baby mamas and deal drugs. I shouldn’t be here according to all of those things. I shouldn’t be graduating in May with my bachelor’s degree in Psychology, but I didn’t let society stop me from living out my dreams and embracing diversity.”