Letter to the editor: Unity, understanding and support are needed to get past racial issues

By SIU civil service employee Amelia Ketzle

I applaud interim Chancellor Bradley Colwell and other leaders on campus who worked to get the vile video “SIUC White is Right” removed from YouTube and who immediately denounced it as the very opposite of the university’s values.

I’m glad they are working just as hard to find who posted the video and prosecute them, so we can have closure about this. Alpha Tau Omega denies involvement, and if that is true, their name should be cleared. I would expect they would be working as hard as SIU to identify the culprit since it is their name that was tarnished.

Until we know who is responsible, it will be very difficult for our campus to begin to heal from this. Suspicions and tensions are running high in every direction.


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The creator(s) of the video deliberately used the most violent and terrorizing language they could, conjuring the ugly legacy of post-slavery lynching in America. This was done for no other reason than to strike fear into the hearts of our black brothers and sisters on campus, and it worked.

How could it not? This isn’t pretend or something to be easily dismissed. Lynching was a reality in this country not that long ago. The last recorded one was in 1981 in Alabama.

Because of this ugly history, we find it difficult to talk about race, but it doesn’t get any easier by avoiding it, and the issue isn’t going away. It keeps bubbling to the surface, a wound that refuses to heal because it hasn’t been properly tended to.

We have an opportunity in times like these to make this wound a little better instead of worse.

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A lot of people on campus right now feel like they are not valued or welcome. Do what you can to combat that.

Make sure your students, colleagues and friends know you support and value them. Standing against racism, hate and violence should not be controversial, but too often we are afraid to speak out for fear of offending someone or because we don’t know quite what to say.

Instead, be afraid not to speak out for fear of letting someone down. If you think the message of that video is abhorrent, make sure your voice is heard. You may be thinking they should assume that, but silence can be taken for complicity. Even if that’s not how it’s meant, the refusal to take a stand can be seen as assent.

Letting someone else hurt you is almost as bad as hurting you themselves, isn’t it?

We don’t yet know exactly who made the video or why, but it’s clear they meant to cause fear and division on our campus, and so far they have succeeded. But we can deny them that victory.

The chancellor asked us not to give the makers power by sharing the video. But we can also rob them of the power to terrify and divide by standing together, by showing solidarity.

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As the individual members that make up SIUC, we can reject the message of this video, loud and clear, so whoever made it, and anyone who sympathizes with them, will know that they and their kind have lost.

SIUC will not be a place of fear and division, living in the past.

It will be a place that takes pride in our beautiful diversity, looking to the future, and we will be proud of it! 

Amelia Ketzle, who will return to campus for classes in the fall, is an SIU alumna and civil service employee from Carbondale.