Higher education institutions are widely deemed as liberal, progressive spaces where racist outbursts are considered rare or nonexistent. These universities promote the notion that they seek to build an aware community that actively combats racism and prejudice. However, while facilitating a hypothetical campus-wide consciousness of the racial issues that plague our society is a necessary first step, actual policies must be implemented by the universities to protect minority students by preventing and punishing perpetrators of racist violence and discrimination.
A derogatory message was discovered in a bathroom in Elmer Holmes Bobst Library that said, “Hasta Luego Dreamers,” following the Trump administration’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This intolerant display follows numerous racist demonstrations across university campuses in the United States. In May 2017, bananas were found hanging from nooses at American University with “AKA Free” written on them. AKA refers to AU’s Alpha Kappa Alpha, a predominately African-American sorority. To name a more extensively reported incident, white nationalists invaded the University of Virginia campus chanting the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.” This event preceded the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where a car drove into a crowd of people protesting the white nationalists, resulting in one death and several injuries. Moreover, the Psi Upsilon fraternity of Cornell University announced that it will close its Chi chapter indefinitely after a black student fell victim to racial slurs and physical assault from a group of white male members. Note that the decision to end the Chi chapter came from the fraternity’s Board of Governors, whereas Psi Upsilon continuously denied the charges.
These racist events rely on an underlying culture of impunity at universities that contributes to the perpetuation of state-sanctioned violence. Student activists and organizations will continue to protest these displays of racially motivated hatred, but the lack of repercussions following these events fails to discourage racists from attacking their fellow students. While I acknowledge that universities are not responsible for enlightening racist students to their erroneous and malicious beliefs, universities do have a duty to protect their students from discrimination. By resorting to the usual strategy of just promoting inclusion and tolerance, universities like NYU, UVA, AU and Cornell are ignoring the issue and enabling white supremacy to infest college campuses. This highlights the hypocrisy of universities’ self-promoted commitments to equally support all their students.
Racist demonstrations at universities should not go unpunished. A university’s lack of direct actions against racism inevitably shows that it prioritize the futures of certain students at the expense of the security of other students. Self-proclaimed liberal institutions must realize that they are giving racist students the freedom to predicate their educational success on bigotry. Let’s abandon this so-called all talk strategy and abolish the culture of impunity on college campuses.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Paola Nagovitch at [email protected]
A version of this appeared in the Monday, Oct. 23 print edition. Email [email protected]