Racism on College Campuses
My school recently had another racist incident: two black students had racist slurs scrawled on their dorm room white boards. I say “another” because they have happened here with depressing regularity: a “pimps and hos” party two year ago, a student dressing in blackface for a Halloween party two years before that, and other incidents before that that have blurred together in my mind. The minority students tell those faculty willing to listen that this is just the tip of the iceberg: such things go on all the time, and it is only occasionally that they come to public attention.
I am not naming my school (though anyone can figure it with two minutes on Google) because while I have specific concerns about my institution, these problems are universal: a pimps and hos party (actually “conquistabros and navahos” in honor of Columbus) at Harvard, a “Compton cookout” at UCSD, an “MLK party” at UConn Law school: the list is seemingly endless. It is un-nerving that a generation after the Civil Rights movement tore down many of the legal and social constructs of racism in America, our culture is still oozes this toxic sludge. It is quite depressing how our students, many of whom are destined to be political and financial players, will either openly indulge in racist stereotypes and slurs, or just don’t think its a big deal. When confronted by real students who do think it is a big deal, either shuffle uncomfortably or venture to suggest (usually in private or in “hypothetical” discussions) that these students are over-reacting.
I am curious as to your thoughts on this matter: what lies behind this? One conservative meme is that Colleges bring this on themselves: students are not racists when they arrive, but are made so by a constant barrage of “racial re-education”, “political correctness” and “enforced multi-culturalism.” In my own experience, this is simply false. I have twice taught a first year seminar on race and class, and many of my white students come to school with their heads full of racist stereotypes and a parochial point of view that fails to look beyond their privileged white upbringing. Diversity days and sensitivity training have taught them all to say the right things, but they have not internalized these messages.
[I am going to delete any post calling another poster a racist without comment. Leave the ad hominem attacks at the door, please. If you think a *statement* is racist or involves racist stereotypes, you can say so, but please be charitable and give the poster the benefit of the doubt.]