Daily Egyptian

What May 2 really means for campus

By Tyler Davis, @TDavis_DE

As much as I’d like to, I cannot tell students to come to class Monday and not to worry about recent violent threats. Thanks to an anonymous coward, SIU’s recent rocky race-relations have taken a turn toward catastrophe, fear and anger.

Threats of lynching from an unknown YouTube user in a now-deleted video called “SIUC White is Right” has prompted African-American students on social media to suggest violent defense. 

One male went so far as brandishing two guns, which he said were fake, in an also-deleted Twitter video in response to the YouTube post.

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Some white members of the Carbondale community couldn’t understand how one could post images of guns on social media. But they haven’t had open calls of their group of people to be murdered at a place they call home just for being who they are. 

As a biracial man, I wish this man wouldn’t go to such lengths, whether he was serious or not. As the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Egyptian, I wish this fear wasn’t prevalent enough to warrant this editorial in the first place.

But the fear surrounding Monday is real — I heard it in my bowling class Wednesday. My teacher, tired of inconsistent attendance, made Monday’s class worth 10 percent of our grade for the semester.

MORE: Administrators host Q&As in response to student concerns

White and black students alike complained, saying the anticipated tension Monday was far too dangerous to ensure their arrival.

But Monday stands as our greatest chance to improve our racial climate. Just don’t feed into the fear. Don’t let the anonymous yellow-belly who started all of this win. 

While the fear is understandable, I have been in enough situations during my four years at SIU to accurately predict what will happen Monday. 

Somewhere between a couple dozen to 100 students will walk out of class in response to the May 2 strike against student loan debt — the original reason the date is even relevant.

The many white students who have black friends will continue to walk alongside them and vice versa. Most of the day will be uneventful because the majority of students understand there is racism on campus and do not harbor ill will toward other races. Regardless of what random video makers state. 

But the racial tension will be thick between the groups that don’t interact. Mono-ethnic groups of students will have heightened suspicion.

And that’s the root of the problem. That’s the issue the mystery man behind the YouTube video has manifested.

There are people of all races who simply don’t care to interact with other ethnicities and cultures. Instead of investigating, and probably eradicating their prejudices, they let them create a wall of hatred.

I know that hate is real because of the amount of times I have heard the word “nigger” on campus and in Carbondale. This word was said conversationally by people I once called friends. Maybe it was my light skin, or the fact they were around four or five other white guys, but that word was the only way some people referred to black human beings. 

I would never fight someone because of something they called me, but I’d be sure to let them know why what they’re saying is wrong. And I have done it to nearly 10 different people in my time here.

While institutional racism should be fought, it is this interpersonal racism that really harms us. Yes, more classes about black, Latino, Asian and Middle Eastern cultures may foster understanding, but equality and sympathy cannot be legislated.

If friends allow and ignore racist language and stereotypes, nothing will change.

The best way to stamp this out is for fellow white people to notice it. I’ve had people stop hanging out with me because I was angry about their use of the word. I’ve had others realize how awful it is and stop using it. Either way, I didn’t hold my tongue. 

I know dozens of white people who have done this. Unfortunately, it is not enough as some of my friends wait until their white buddies leave the room to express their disdain for the word.

We must hold these actions accountable. 

Similarly, I encourage fellow minorities to understand that some white people do want equality and racial acceptance at the expense of their own comfort. There are plenty of white allies on campus. 

It’s time to choose one side or the other — not pro-black or anti-white — but pro-acceptance and anti-discrimination. 

Until then, the things that divide us, such as the cowardice displayed by the YouTube video or the aggression showed in the Twitter video, will continue to do so.

Our collective experiences will deteriorate as they have over the past few months, and no amount of “listening sessions” by the administration can fix that. 

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3397

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