“Some schools canceled classes because the threats made to Black lives were of such grave concern.”
These past few weeks have taken on a terrifying turn for the injustice of Black people in the United States. Throughout the nation, for several years now, a new movement has sought to bring to light institutional racism and the unjust treatment of people of color (POCs). Recent events have highlighted the unfair day-to-day treatment some American students repeatedly face, especially on college and university campuses, and the extent of the apathetic response by these institutions and their staff.
The news started to highlight the issue of racism in student life beginning with Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut a few weeks back. The turmoil at the Ivy League hit a breaking point after the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon threw a party, and they rejected Black girls from coming in. Students were disappointed by the lack of response by administrators and decided to take a stand against the salient racism permeating the university: they launched protests across the campus and demanded high-level administrators to finally speak.
Days following the protests at Yale, a similar uprising happened at University of Missouri (Mizzou) in Columbia, Missouri. Here, POCs have long felt the segregation of student life and have been disturbed by it. Minority students organized a protest on the night of a football game, an event that is at the very heart of student life at Mizzou. The protestors blocked the car of the university’s President from entering the stadium to call his attention to the struggles Black students experience. The protest escalated when the football spectators began to yell racial profanities, causing so much chaos that the President’s car hit a protestor. Amid all this, Mizzou’s President, along with the rest of the university, did nothing to respond to the emergency before them.
After these events, youth across the country took to social media to make their own observations about the protests. A particularly popular medium that was used was the Yik Yak app. This platform allows users to make anonymous posts in their area for others to read. Usually, the remarks are harmless, random observations. However, after the protests in Yale and Mizzou, some people utilized the medium to spew hatred. There were many bigoted remarks made, racial slurs used, and even threats made towards the lives of Black students.
To make things worse, the hateful posts were seen not just on the Yik Yak newsfeeds of Columbia and New Haven, but across the whole country, on the newsfeeds of the American University, Colgate University, and Western Washington University. Some schools canceled classes because the threats made to Black lives were of such grave concern. A Black Rwandan student was even attacked at Lewis & Clarke College in Portland, Oregon following a threatening Yik Yak post.
A racial crisis is happening in universities across the United States. Black students today still feel like second-class citizens and White students continue to feel entitled to demean their peers. This is demonstrating the important work that remains to be done for the justice of minorities in America. There is still a long way to go.
The response of the Mizzou football spectators shows that White students care more about preserving their social life rather than cultivating compassion, acceptance and respect towards all their peers. Furthermore, the response by Yale and Mizzou administrators alike enforce this racist belief among students. It is as if the culture of college campuses is to protect the social patterns that keep others oppressed. It is also important to consider that the unhealthy and unjust student environment does not stay within universities. By turning a blind eye to the race situation on campus, the ivory towers of academia enshrine these values as being acceptable even after academic life.
But worse yet, the Yik Yak posts show that it is still unsafe to be a minority in America. There were calls to bring back slavery, to get the KKK to attack POCs, and explicit warnings that if Black students showed up to their campuses, they would be killed. It seems that there has been no progress made from the times of Jim Crow laws to now: Blacks are still persecuted and Whites still ignore the problem. The incidents on college campuses across America are a wake-up call to society to acknowledge that the racist ideals of long ago are still prevalent today. How many more are needed before change comes?
– Maria Margarita Caicedo