[News] The campus race protests are about systemic racism that's never gone away

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 13 12:02:42 EST 2015


  The campus race protests are about systemic racism that's never gone away

Luna Olavarría Gallegos
Thursday 12 November 2015 12.55 EST

This week’s student protests may be organized on social media, but 
they’re not addressing anything new. The iconic moment of black campus 
protests was captured way back in 1969, when students from Cornell 
University’s Afro-American Society left Willard Straight Hall carrying 
rifles and wearing bandoliers, part of a protest against disciplining 
black students who had advocated for an Africana Studies and Research 
Center. Forty-six years later, students all over the country continue to 
protest for their right to exist on a college campus free of racial 

On Wednesday – just minutes away from Willard Straight Hall – at Ithaca 
College in upstate New York, more than 1,000 students held a “Solidarity 
Walk Out” 
to rally around a vote of no confidence in the college president for 
allegedly denying the existence of racism within campus security and 
encouraging surveillance 
of dissenting faculty and students. It was one in a stream of 
race-related protests at schools including Claremont McKenna College 
Yale University 
and the University of Missouri 

These actions are more than acts of resistance to systemic racism; these 
are demands to be respected as students on college campuses. The rise of 
the Black Lives Matter movement 
<http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/black-lives-matter-movement> and 
visibility of racial justice issues today have perhaps informed the 
protests, but these student movements have been happening repeatedly 
since the first person of color stepped on to a campus of higher education.

There is a continuous history of excluding and discriminating against 
students of color in forms other than outright threats and violence, 
even before the internet allowed the nationwide broadcast and solidarity 
of grievances: ethnic studies classes cast as electives instead of 
mandatory classes or part of legitimate majors; lack of faculty of 
color; a dearth of funding for student-led diversity initiatives; and 
the absence <http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/abs/8853> of appropriate 
mental health services for international students and students of color.

A report 
published by Brown University’s newspaper earlier this week found that 
there was no racial difference in making appointments with campus 
counseling services but black students there were more than “twice as 
likely to have reached the seven-session limit and to have received 
outside help”. Brown recently expanded 
services to better assist students of color, a change also on the list 
of demands 
made by protesting students at the University of Missouri.*

These are not hypothetical problems. When protests at the University of 
Missouri led to the president and chancellor’s resignations this week, 
on the app Yik Yak to shoot black students followed. Mizzou students of 
color said 
this was not the first time they have felt unsafe on campus.

And at Ithaca, two alumnae came forward in the fall with their story of 
how they were allegedly physically attacked by campus security. 
administrators claimed instances of physical violence as isolated 
Protesting students and faculty 
countered that the acts of violence and denial of racism are both part 
of a system of institutionalized racism present on primarily white 
institutions all over the country.

As a recent alumna of Ithaca College, I can attest to a campus 
environment that boasts a liberal mindset while obstructing students 
from taking black, Asian or Latino studies courses through the 
implementation of a strict core curriculum, hiring too few people of 
color for tenure-track faculty positions 
making no adjustments 
the mental health program that would benefit students of color.

Also this week, students at Claremont McKenna College in California 
gathered in protest 
of the administration’s response to outcry over long-lasting problems 
with racism on campus. The dean of students had recently responded 
<http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=6973>to a student’s article regarding 
racism on campus by referring to students who “do not fit our CMC mold”. 
The rally was also inspired by a Facebook photograph in which two 
students dressed up in brownface for Halloween. In response, students 
demanded a social justice center as well as the resignation of the dean.

And at Yale, more than 1,000 students showed up to a “March of 
Resilience” after several students reported being denied entry into a 
fraternity on the basis of their skin color. In addition, after a public 
announcement to refrain from racist Halloween costumes, students of 
color became outraged when a faculty member questioned 
this announcement as an impediment <http://pastebin.com/egSQGfgK> to the 
freedom of expression.

A nationwide movement among students of color united with the goal to 
make institutions of higher education inclusive in campus life and 
curriculum, as well as in admissions, is a necessary part of the current 
advancement of racial justice in this country. Instead of being used 
just to satisfy a quota for a liberal agenda, students are fighting to 
finally be recognized as a legitimate part of academia.

At this moment, it is crucial that students collectively reflect on the 
histories of their educational institutions and of the organizers who 
came before them to make sure 46 years from now they are not still 
struggling to belong in these spaces.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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