Racism on College Campuses… it is Structural

Editor’s note: Some of the embedded videos contain racist language, or racist themes.

November 12, 2015 (San Diego) You have surely read by now about the resignation of the Missouri State President Tim Wolfe. You may even have heard of the issues at Ithaca New York. This is not limited to those schools east of the Mississippi. Here, in our own fair city, we have our own issues.

Racism, right under the surface, is a problem nationwide. In 2010 it exploded at UCSD, when students found a noose in the school library, That story barely registered outside the region. Yes, the LA Times ran a story, and so did all local media. But the story quickly died. and the protests and walkouts never really registered outside of the region. In fact, they barely made a dent in the local consciousness.

It might be location. It might be lack of a football team. It might be timing. That event happened after the election of President Barack Obama and we were supposed to be living in the new utopia of a post racial society. So of course that went against the dominant narrative.

It is important to see that noose in continuity with the current environment in many colleges, and we will add, outside colleges. We have racial tension, and it is  emerging due to a fast changing society that is becoming less white and more multicolored. What we are seeing in American colleges is quite frankly structural in nature. It is not limited to colleges, but the reactions of colleges are telling.

Fraternities are particularly bad about this. Do you remember a group of fraternity men singing a pretty racist song? If you need a refresher, here is the video.

Yes, the SAE fraternity was shuttered after this surfaced at the University of Oklahoma But I will posit, only because they were caught. This also happened to the student here at UCSD, who was in the end suspended, The crisis though, was very real. The priority for the university tough, was to make the black eye go away as fast as possible.

The reaction from the UCSD administration was expected. It followed the same parading that we are seeing at Ithaca and we saw at Mizzou. They were shocked, this goes against university values, we will form committees, commissions, and have a student code of conduct that bans hurtful language. This is no longer working because the students are not willing to accept these measures as sufficient. What the students have noted is that these measures only help to reinforce a system of structural racism.

This system keeps things just from boiling over, and keeps people “in their place.” Yes, when somebody goes over the top, like that noose, they are suspended, at times arrested and even more rare at times charged by the authorities. But the environment that allows that boil to fester is allowed to continue. This environment includes parties at times with racist undertones.

We should have a frank and open discussion of race in classrooms. We should challenge our views, on all sides. But students should not be able to have a party where sorority girls denigrate Mexicans. Yes this happened at Penn State in 2012.

Then here is how an Arizona State fraternity celebrated Martin Luther King day.

If you think UCSD was the exception, enjoy this from UC Irvine, where some fraternity members thought it was hilarious to just party in black faces.

I could go on. There are many of these examples all across the nation. So when an African American student claims that somebody called him, or her,  the N word, it is not just believable, but it is structural.

Schools should know better, and the Greek system is where a lot of these tensions are expressing themselves, and when caught, national Greek System offices pretend to be shocked and dismayed that local houses did this. Local administrations pretend they are shocked as well.

This is also part of the structural matter, If any mostly minority House did any of this and was caught, there would be a lot of outrage. How dare they? It is time for colleges to do far more than just come out with pretty statements on how these parties go counter the values of the university. Yes, they do. But until they act on their code of conduct and put a stop to many of these abuses, it will continue to be structural.

It goes beyond the frat houses though. There are these hiring practices and who gets tenure at colleges. If you have not noticed, even today college faculty, the tenured kind, tends to be mostly male and white, The adjunct professors, those people with PhDs working part time, who never will get tenure, tend to be women and minorities, None of this is accidental. This goes much beyond appointing a diversity officer. It also means policy changes and also attitude changes. It is time colleges catch up with the times, and those times include a far more diverse country outside the ivory tower.

So when you look at Ithaca, or Missouri, think UCSD. Also start to ask, how bad it is at any of the other local schools? Sadly we will not know, not until another noose, or swastika or what have you makes it appearance on campus.

Categories: analysis, Colleges, Structural Racism, USCD

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