Here we go again…
Connecticut College canceled classes Monday to hold day-long discussions on racism and hate speech following the discovery of the words “No N***ers” written several times on the walls of a campus building. This comes a few days after a school custodian was told to “shut the f**k up you ignorant n***er”, and just weeks after a professor posted a Facebook status describing Palestinians in Gaza as “a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.”
Deion Jordan, a sophomore and an African American, spoke about complaints of racist or biased behavior that have been made to the college administration but, he said, have never been adequately addressed.
“These are things that people of color have to deal with on a consistent basis.” Jordan said it’s not unusual for students of color to be stopped by security as they cross the bucolic, seaside campus and asked, “Do you attend this institution? … Are you a New London resident? Are you supposed to be here?”
Deborah MacDonnell, spokeswoman for the college, said the college does its best to address complaints of bias and to follow through with discipline when appropriate, but she said the complaints are often difficult to verify.
…and water is wet.
This is nothing new: hate speech is thrown at an academic institution, and the administration hopes it just goes away. When will they learn that it never does?
There is the possibility that the person who wrote the racial epithet did it because they thought it’d be funny. Of course, there is the chance that the person is truly hateful. Nevertheless, my experiences with racism are typically with the former: people who say and do things like this to get a response, not truly understanding (or caring about) the history behind it and why it triggers such a response.
We can scream “post-racial society” until we’re blue in the face, but we still have a lot of work to do in order to get there. There are countless stories of black people feeling victimized by racism, whether it’s systemic like the racial undertones of campus life or being overlooked for jobs because of race perception, or as blatant as the SAE chants at the University of Oklahoma and the noose found hanging in a tree on Duke’s campus.
Racism isn’t a conspiracy theory that will float away with time. It is a deep wound that, just like a physical one, will only get worse if you ignore it.
Several white students talked about how the graffiti and the community’s response had raised their awareness about racism. “I am so sorry. I am sorry that it took 18 years of my life to realize that racism still exists,” said Trevor Bates, a freshman. “I have been blind to the fact that racist acts occur in communities like ours. …This needs to be people’s home, and when people feel attacked in this space or treated disrespectfully, it is no longer a home; it’s a hell.
College President Katherine Bergeron said it’s been a “difficult month” and that “these issues show without a doubt the kind of harm that can be done by language that is bigoted and hateful and what kind of harm they can have in a community. … We shouldn’t tolerate this. Connecticut College is better than that.”
I believe their sincerity… but talk is cheap.
Moral Of The Story
Change can only happen when people are truly open to understanding the history behind certain things, empathize with those who have been affected, and take steps to do their part in healing the wounds.
We can’t just act like prejudice isn’t there and hope it goes away. Despite what you may think of others who look or act different than your perception of normal, whether they’re Black, White, Latino, Asian, Gay, Straight, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Autistic, Homeless, or other, we are all human beings deserving of love and respect.
We will never get anywhere until we understand this basic fact of life.
Updated on April 1st to add the noose-hanging incident at Duke University.