Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The New Face of Racism On College Campuses

The face of racism has changed on American campuses, from hatred to ignorance.
When I was at Syracuse University I dated a Chinese/American girl and a guy I once knew was dating an African American active in the civil rights movement. Because I was a townie I decided to take us to a bar that seldom saw Syracuse University students.
We had settled in when I was motioned over by someone I knew from high school. I had tried to integrate a high school fraternity and been roundly reviled for it, so this guy didn't mince words.
"The Oriental can stay, but if you don't get the nigger out of here, we're going to kill you," he said.
I reported this back to the table, and because we were  determined to show we wouldn't be cowed, we stayed there long enough to prove we weren't cowards. It wasn't pleasant but we emerged alive.
 Later that year a racist Southern governor, George Wallace, was welcomed on campus by students waving Confederate flags.
Later, when I became a professor at a university in which whites were a minority, I used to speak out on the use of the word "nigga" in rap. I would tell them about friends of mine who had suffered because of that word. I also told then that the white suburban kids who bought those albums would think it was alright to use the word.
Nowadays, the problem at American universities is affected by the fact students don't know how bad things used to be. Ignorance of the devastating toll of prejudice allowed a University of Michigan fraternity made up of whites and Asians to hold a party that revolved around coming "back to the hood."
I've seen students pulled over for DWB (driving while Black) and helped them deal with the way they're still regarded by many whites. Most whites in college don't have a clue and their ignorance of this world allows them to think they're in a color blind world where anything is OK to say. It isn't and with the presence of fewer African Americans at prestigious campuses, things are getting worse. Whites ought to understand that their classmates frequently come from tougher worlds than they inhabited growing up.

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