School may have just started a few weeks ago, but a number of college campuses throughout the country have already experienced incidents of campus racism. Students across these campuses have demonstrated their dismay over the discriminatory environments. This has left a number of administrations to take a long hard look at what is really going on at their institutions.
Students at American University protested for two white students to be suspended last week in response to allegations they had thrown a banana at a Black woman earlier this month. In a separate incident, the same students left a rotting banana outside another Black woman’s door and left obscene messages on the whiteboard attached to her door.
Unfortunately, this is not an outlying issue, as members of the Black Student Alliance claim there have been tensions among students of different races for a number of years.
However, the university did not determine the dorm incident was racially motivated. “Regarding the known facts, on September 8, an incident that was not characterized as bias related occurred in a residence hall and was reported to Residence Life staff,” a statement from the university read. “Based on the accounts provided, the DOS filed conduct charges, which are currently being adjudicated through the Student Conduct process.”
American University, located in Washington, D.C., does not have a diverse student body. Undergraduate students are 58 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic, 7 percent non-resident alien, 7 percent Asian, 6 percent Black, 6 percent unknown, 5 percent two or more races and less than one percent both American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
Cornelius M. “Neil” Kerwin, president of American University, condemned the incidents prior to this week’s protest. He called the incidents “unacceptable” and said they left “African American students and others shaken, upset, and even feeling unsafe.”
But students were not happy with this response. “Nothing is ever done; no AU alerts, no consequences. Just town halls where we speak to deaf ears,” said Black Student Alliance President Ma’at Sargeant.
Another protest this week was held at Eastern Michigan University, after a racist message written in graffiti appeared on a campus building Tuesday. The perpetrator sprayed the letters “KKK” in red, white and blue, and the phrase “Leave [N*****S]” below it. One day later, a racial slur was found written in the stairwell of a different building.
The university worked to remove the graffiti shortly after it was discovered, but protesters who were on the scene called for a better solution than just cleaning away the racist remarks. President James Smith said in a statement, “The racist graffiti targeted the Black community, and we as collective members of Eastern Michigan University and the larger world community find the use of this language and its intent to harm both deeply offensive and unacceptable.”
EMU is 66 percent white; 20 percent Black; 4 percent Hispanic; 3 percent two or more races; 2 percent unknown, Asian and non-resident alien; and less than 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
One example of an institution taking quick action against on campus racism happened this week at Belmont University, where a student was expelled for a hateful racist Snapchat. The post, which went viral this week, included a picture of Philadelphia Eagles players raising their fists during Monday Night Football’s National Anthem performance. Text over the picture claimed the men were “piece of s*** n******” who needed a “bullet in their head.” The text also stated, “If you don’t like this country get the hell out.” Shortly after officials at the university caught wind of the issue, the student was promptly expelled.
Belmont University, located in Nashville, Tennessee, is less diverse than EMU and American University. Students are 80 percent white; 5 percent Hispanic; 4 percent Black and unknown; 3 percent two or more races; 2 percent Asian; 1 percent non-resident alien; and less than 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
Belmont student Isaiah Edwards, who is Black, told The Tennessean that the response to the incident demonstrates the effectiveness of the university’s Black Student Association.
“Being on such a beautiful campus, that supports diversity and inclusion, it is terrifying having someone speak about shooting individuals in the head and referring to them as n*****s,” he said. “I hope that Belmont uses this experience as a wake-up call that this type of disgusting behavior is real and prevalent on its campus.”
Kansas State University had a similar issue to Belmont’s, when a white senior student posted a Snapchat of her and her friend in black clay masks with the caption “feels good to finally be a n—-.” Like the student at Belmont, the student at Kansas State was promptly expelled by the university due to the uproar against the social media post.
Kansas State University’s student body is racially similar to Belmont’s. Students are 78 percent white; 6 percent Hispanic and non-resident alien; 4 percent Black; 3 percent two or more races; 1 percent unknown and Asian; and less than 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
With the nation already in turmoil over tenuous race relations, these incidents continue to happen on college campuses nationwide. Different institutions have responded to incidents in different ways, but overall it seems minority students are looking for more action to be taken by their universities, so that they can study in an accepting and inclusive community.