If there’s one thing that 2015 has taught us, it’s that racism isn’t a thing of the past; it’s a thing of the present. The idea of a post-racial America is just that: a novel idea, but one that isn’t going to become reality anytime soon. National incidents and specific people put racism in the spotlight this year, and one of them is even running for president. God help us all.
One of my favorite movies back in the day was Higher Learning, especially since it came out around the time I was in college. Skinheads. Check. Black power types. Check. What do you get when they clash? A campus in turmoil.
This year, campuses across the country put race at the forefront of higher education. There were the racist frat bros of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma who thought that singing “There will never be a n–ger SAE” would go unnoticed. Little did they know that their little song on a bus would go viral. The SAE chapter at the school was eventually closed. Apologetic frat members were expelled, but of course some in the mainstream media wanted to place all the blame on hip-hop music. Because we all know that hip-hop is filled with racist frat bros. #Sarcasm.
Just as the incident with SAE was broadcast all over social media, other campuses learned that being anonymous on social media brings out the worst in people. At American University in Washington, D.C., black students protested the fact that the popular social media app Yik Yak was being used to target black students. Members of a student-led, racial-justice community organization called the Darkening launched the hashtag #TheRealAU to expose those using the app around campus. The university’s president, Neil Kerwin, responded to the student-led exposé by stating that the university would take steps to improve race relations on campus.
Race relations were also brought back into the spotlight in Missouri, almost a year after the death of Michael Brown. After a series of racist incidents at the University of Missouri that seemingly fell on the deaf ears of the university’s higher-ups, black student-athletes put their feet down, along with their footballs, and went on strike. The athletes’ hit-them-where-it-hurts (in the wallets) tactics didn’t go unnoticed. But it’s unfortunate that it took a group of athletes to get attention, when another Mizzou student, Jonathan Butler, who went on a hunger strike, didn’t cause the university to take action.
The students’ protests sparked the resignation of the school president, Tim Wolfe, and then all hell broke loose. Cowards once again took to social media just to show how racist they can be. But this time, Yik Yak would prove that not everything posted is anonymous. And a 19-year-old was charged with making terrorist threats.
Those were the biggest news-makers when it came to campus racism, but of course there were the annual parties with blackface; and then someone decided to play in the snow and write “white power” all over cars on the campus of Michigan’s Calvin College.
Black students go to college to learn, but unfortunately, the lessons of racism aren’t mapped out in their syllabuses. When you’re a black face in a sea of white faces, the only thing you can do is share your common experiences with other black students, look racism dead-on and then realize that the world is filled with racists. And go on to get that paper and not let it deter you.