Editor’s note: This article contains social media posts that some may find offensive.
Being a black student on a predominantly white campus isn’t always easy. Especially when some of your white classmates repeatedly post racist comments on a popular social media app used by college students.
Such is the case at American University.
Members of a student-led, racial-justice community organization called the Darkening launched #TheRealAU campaign so that students could share their experience with racism on campus, something the organization says the university’s president, Neil Kerwin, has failed to address aside from a memorandum written in April.
“Recently members of our campus community were subjected in social media to racist, offensive comments that were reprehensible,” Kerwin wrote. “Similar experiences are occurring with disturbing frequency nationwide at other colleges and universities, but they are especially unwelcome at our university, which so actively strives to be diverse and inclusive. … Like all institutions devoted to learning, we face a great challenge in balancing conditions that make it possible for every member of the community to learn and work in a respectful environment that also supports free academic inquiry and unfettered speech.”
However, black students on campus say that racist messages are being left on the popular Yik Yak app and that although they’ve complained to the president about it, nothing has been done. As a result, the students decided to take action.
On Oct. 8 the students posted screenshots of the racist messages all around campus in hopes of drawing attention to the ongoing issue. But eventually the images were taken down by campus security.
“The American University community has demonstrated that it does not care enough about the experience of black students here. I should not have to deal with micro-aggressive students, staff and professors every day,” said Tatiana Laing, co-founder of the Darkening. “Enough is enough. Free speech is not the same as hate speech. It shouldn’t be up to me to train people on structural racism because we lack mandatory racial education. I need American University to make concrete changes, and I needed it yesterday.”
The black students on campus want their voices heard. Some may suggest that they ignore the app because only cowards would use it to post anonymous messages. But black students on campus shouldn’t have to be on guard and subjected to cowardly acts of racism—offline or on social media.