How Campus Racism Is a Postelection Reality

Given recent cases at Ole Miss and Towson U, Obama's win still rankles some young voters.

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I've said it before and I'll say it again: Students need help making sense of the world, and when they don't understand how the world is changing, some of them lash out. When we pretend that these disappointing acts are less than what they are (one reporter called the bias incident at Hampden-Sydney "racially tinged disturbances"), instead of calling them what they are – acts of racism and terrorism that psychologically damage students who are on the receiving end of such rage -- then we fuel the fire. This is why students like those who gathered at Hampden-Sydney to menace and threaten students of color with bodily harm use these tactics: They know that it will cause hurt and sow seeds of suspicion and mistrust.

Even though the massive turnout of young voters should be celebrated, it does not mean that we are now off the hook for continuing to educate young people about issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and power. The national shift in racial demographics may not be reflected on many college campuses yet, meaning that members of historically disenfranchised groups may very well continue to be the "minority" on predominantly white college campuses. We cannot dismiss their needs, or the needs of white students to continue to learn how to co-exist peacefully and to resolve conflict without hurling racial slurs and bottles and threatening bodily harm.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.

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