EMMA PROE, Asst. Features Editor — Race relations in America are an inescapable subject for college campuses across the country and Denison is no exception.
On Tuesday, September 22, The Alford Community Leadership & Involvement Center (CLIC), Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) and the office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) hosted author Lawrence Ross to speak about racism on American college campuses to Denison students.
Ross is best known for his best seller book The Divine Nine, which covers the history of African American Greek Life, as well as Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses.
Ross has traveled to campuses around the country presenting his lecture Blackballed and raising awareness about the ways racism infiltrates higher education, as well as how people should address this.
During the presentation, Ross provided slide after slide with incidents of black face, racist social media posts, chants with slurs, offensive party themes, microaggressions and assaults taking place on college campuses. These incidents ranged in region, year, and form, proving themselves a long withstanding problem.
So what is the first step to combating this bigotry in upper education?
Dismantling racism begins with the individual, who must actively be opposed to racism. Ross addressed the crowd.
“I want all of you to be anti-racist. You should be intolerant of the way racism exists and you shouldn’t be satisfied with people being second-class citizens in the country you love, and the campus you love.”
The individual must also understand the issues of systemic racism in America and the prominence of white supremacist values, from which these incidents stem. According to Ross, it is important to acknowledge that rather than these being isolated incidents, they are instead perpetuated by a system that must be broken down.
Beyond the individual, the best response for colleges is to deconstruct the student body, campus environment and value system. By scrutinizing the groundwork of institutions, colleges can see how systemic racism proliferates among students.
Examples of these deconstructions include increasing numbers of minority populations on campus while avoiding tokenism, taking the burden off of minority students to figure these issues out alone and providing a genuine, thought out pledge against racism rather than a “word salad statement.” Colleges must also remove any racist iconography, such as statues of explicit racists.
A hotly contested debate around campus racism is on fraternities and sororities, which literally have racism written into their past. Although many have advocated for the abolition of Greek life, Ross held a different view.
He stated, “I don’t believe in abolishing the organizations. The racism doesn’t just disappear because you leave.” Rather, he offered, “Don’t like your organization? Deconstruct it.”
He commended organization members who have spoken out and activated plans against racism.
The insight provided from Ross’s lecture could not be more relevant and bears careful consideration from both students and colleges alike. By following the advice offered and taking care to understand the politics of race, upper education institutions can work closer toward inclusive, anti-racist campuses.