As many of us made our way to the Bart Luedeke Center on April 18 and took in the warm weather that embraced the Campus Green, we could see above us bright blue skies. Below us on the sidewalks, scribbled in pink chalk, was something far from beautiful.
Words your mother washed your mouth out with soap for now adorned the sidewalk. One in particular, the N-word, caught my attention. For many students, college is a safe place where worries about words like this don’t have to cross your mind. But on a bright sunny day, racism was right under our feet.
Racism has been cropping up on college campuses nationwide recently, staining schools in the forms of discriminatory remarks, offensive songs, vandalism and more.
It’s easy to feel that Rider, such a small and comfortable college, would never face issues like this in 2016. This is not the truth, as evident by the words scribbled this week right beside the Rider Rock. It was easy to miss, faded and drawn out in a series of chalk illustrations that lined the campus. But one thing was for sure — it was offensive and unacceptable.
At the University of California, San Diego, messages such as “Mexico will pay” and “Deport them all” were scribbled in chalk along some of the school’s main walkways earlier this month. Similarly, at the University of Massachusetts, the words “Stop Islam” were written outside an academic building. And at the University of Wisconsin, a black student was pulled out of class for tagging the school property with anti-racist graffiti.
How do we fight the discrimination that is creeping through institutions of higher learning, including our own, like a crippling, contagious disease? First, we have to identify the source of the virus.
Issues of race seem to be leading public discussion as the presidential election rages on. Candidates like Donald Trump have been directing this discussion by calling out specific ethnic or religious groups, like Mexicans or Muslims.
Another contributing factor comes from the media and its portrayal of black protesters as angry or irrational, and of terrorists as turban-wearing, chanting Muslims. I hope we can all agree, whether or not we support Trump, that his remarks are discriminatory. We can all agree that these types of media portrayals are skewed and do not apply to the vast majority of the groups they are intended to represent.
So, the real culprits behind racism on campuses may be misinformation and a lack of respect.
It was nice to feel these issues were confined to other universities. But the chalk in front of Cranberry’s tells a different story. I’m sure students at Tulane were not expecting to see a wall of pro-Trump and therefore anti-Latino remarks at a local fraternity. Muslim students at Arizona State weren’t expecting to lose $650 in signs for their Islam Awareness Week after other students kept tearing the posters down. We probably should’ve expected that no school, not even our own, is exempt from the possibility of racism bleeding through the cracks, and onto campus sidewalks.
And we have to fight against that possibility.
Enrich yourself in another culture or mindset by taking a class that discusses another ideology or addresses issues of race. Take Asian Philosophy or Race, Class and Gender in America. The only real way to fight ignorance is to stay educated, and to share that education with others who do not have the same access to it.
If you don’t have credits to spare, don’t think you’re exempt. Go to Art Beast, happening April 22. The theme of this year’s event is “Global Edition,” perfect for broadening your cultural horizons. And you can always stay up-to-date with events hosted by groups like the Black Student Union, Asian Students at Rider, the Latin American Student Organization and more.
Don’t let the discussion end. That just reinforces the idea that it’s OK to marginalize groups of students and the concurring idea that students who get offended are hypersensitive.
Call people out if they say something racist. Point out negative or stereotypical implications in the media or advertising. Keep talking about these issues until they’re no longer an issue. Don’t stop caring when you stop reading this editorial or other articles. These problems don’t fade when you close a newspaper or let your phone screen fade to black.
And don’t let your friends write the N-word anywhere. We’re better than that. We can all work together to fight discrimination on all fronts, and to keep it out of safe havens like Rider. This isn’t a battle cry for minorities or students of a certain religion to take up arms. This is a draft call for all students. We can all fight racism. But we can only win if we all, regardless of political beliefs, religion or race, stand together on the battlefield in solidarity.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 4/20/16 issue.