It appears that racism has no boundaries. It rears its distasteful head in too many places and spaces that we hold dear to us.
Higher education is not immune from this seemingly everyday occurrence. Colleges and universities where scholars reside are now arguably training grounds for future racists.
Well-intentioned students who enter the academic gates each year yearning for high ideals and lofty goals are now being met with racism and sexism.
Some would say, “How can this be”? After all, this is college. It can be because, unfortunately, some in the halls of ivy spew out hate. While it may be subtle at times, the sting and the pain are present. It is my opinion that racism, sexism and bad behavior in general are becoming more visible on college campuses these days.
Recently, American University in Washington, D.C., made national news for all the wrong reasons. Having racist behavior on your college campus places you in an unenviable position. Instead of touting your research, you are apologizing for inappropriate conduct.
American University student Taylor Dumpson ran for the position of president of the student government association. She won. She is African-American and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA). Dumpson received cheers for her victory and jeers from some because she is African-American. Bananas were found dangling from nooses with a sign with the letters AKA on campus on May 1. Mean-spirited and hate-filled are adequate words to describe what happened at American University in Washington.
Dumpson gave a statement shortly after the banana noose incident and quoted Frederick Douglass. Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Frederick Douglass was right then and he is right now in 2017. White privilege, a term coined years ago, is the mantra and calling card for those who believe and foster this false superiority.
In Dumpson’s statement, she referred to the American University Student Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct has a section in it that talks about identity-motivated bias. Both Dumpson and members of the AKA chapter there are victims of identity-motivated bias. Sanctions have been put in place, so we will see if they are enforced.
For them to be enforced, the culprits must be identified. Therein lies the problem.
Racism on college campuses has everybody’s attention, but there is still a long way to go in ending it.
Students who have good hearts have evil sitting right next to them in their classes. Evil smiles at you and will even shake hands with you. The O’Jays would say, “They’re smiling in your face.” Yet these folks are backstabbers.
The FBI is helping with the investigation, so maybe justice is just around the corner.
What happened at American University, while disturbing, is not surprising, because racism is on call 24 hours a day. It doesn’t rest and moves around, so it is hard to catch it. The plots and the threats occur somewhere every day.
Some would opine, how could a racist act like this happen in an urban area like Washington? I lived there for a time, and yes, it is a multicultural city. In addition, yes, the campuses are made up of students from all over the world.
However, the sad truth is that the folks who committed these crimes were probably racists before they ever came onto the American campus.
I am a parent and a grandparent and what you say around the dinner table matters. What you say about your neighbors who don’t look like you matters.
When we see images of people of color on television in marginalized positions, we believe that stereotype about the entire group of people. It is my strong opinion that television, radio, newspapers, and the internet have created an unhealthy view of us.
Our responsibility as good citizens is to offer a counterview. If we say nothing and do nothing, change will not occur. A famous man once said, “The triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
I applaud Dumpson for being a pioneer at American. Her name will be written in the history books there. She will be a catalyst for change and for good at American.
Now that this case has come to light, we must become even more vigilant. We cannot let vileness and viciousness take over.
If you are a student for good, you must sound the horn for it. You must stomp out racism and sexism wherever you see it.
If you are a student at American University, report the perpetrators of this crime. Turn them into the authorities. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
Dr. James B. Ewers Jr. served as a vice president and admissions director at several colleges and universities before retiring in 2012. A motivational speaker and workshop leader, he is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.