We’re living in a post-race society? Racism doesn’t exist anymore? Don’t give me that because I will not hear it. Especially not at the University of Virginia. RACE and RACISM IS AN ISSUE.
As most of the student body now knows, this Wednesday night some bad blood was spilled and it was students versus students. Below is the first hand account from one of the young ladies involved, read the words from her thoughts and not mine and understand what this crime was and what her feelings are, how her sense of community has been taken.
Last Wednesday night, my friend and I decided to stop by Cohn’s, on the way home to the lawn. As we were going into the convenience store, we crossed the path of a group of four males and a girl. One of the males remarked on our “multicultural”-ism, commenting on the difference in skin tone between myself and my friend, whose mother is from Togo.
We quickly turned around, expecting that he would realize that that comment was offensive. Instead when [my friend], asked what he meant by “multicultural” he said: “Niggers.” Our faces crumbled, but seeing our pain he jeered the word again, “Niggers.” We stood, frozen. Shocked. “Niggers! Niggers!” he and his friend spat it out and walked away.
The next twenty-four hours are mostly a blur. I felt despondent, so disappointed in my community and the fact that these guys could say something so violent and hateful, and just walk away, never to think of it again. After four years of friendship, I was so scared that my comfort with [my friend] had been stolen from me. My illusion of security and belonging at U.Va. was shattered, and I began to look at every white male that even remotely resembled the group that taunted us outside of Cohn’s with distrust and revulsion.
And now my thoughts.
I’m not going to bash the South, Virginia, Charlottesville or the University of Virginia for this incident. I’m not outraged but I am upset and concerned for my peers and the future of the student body here. The people responsible are the four students, the two who were outspoken and the two who stood by and did nothing to stop their friends. Fact of the matter is that these four probably represent a larger group of people who share their beliefs at this University. Few students are courageous by day but at night when no one is looking they strike like cowards. And whats more is that these cowards will persist because the honor code cannot punish them. The highly vaunted and respected honor code cannot protect the students who were harmed. Lying, cheating, stealing…the honor code needs to provide for more than that and for whatever stubborn resistance it has not changed it needs to and by necessity with respect to this incident and past incidents. The honor code has a history of why it came to be and that history is past and done with. The honor code needs to be changed to reflect the reality of the offenders and their crimes, yes I said crimes. The honor code was conceived because of the wrongs committed by former students but now it is depicted as the template for our community of trust. Well this community has new trusts that need protecting; people of ALL COLORS, ALL ETHNICITIES, ALL SOCIOECONOMIC STANDINGS and ALL SEXUALITY need to be protected. Pause and take note of that. I’ve probably forgotten some peoples in my desire for protection but nothing is more sure than the fact that I want protection for all students who are committed to respecting one another, if you cannot do that then you do not deserve to be a student of the University of Virginia. PERIOD.
That’s my peace. The student response has come swiftly though via PLEDGE FORWARD, continue reading for more details.
Stop by the 2nd floor of Newcomb from 12-5pm to pledge to protect our Community of Trust.
At 5pm we will convene on the South Lawn to show support and solidarity.
Please wear a black t-shirt.
To the University Community:
I am writing to you all regarding an incident of extreme seriousness that occurred last Wednesday night. While I realize the text is long, the message is necessary, so I urge you to read until the end. Many other emails have been circulating regarding this event, and all contain vital information regarding the severity of the incident. Please do read them all.
While walking to Cohn’s on the corner at around 1:58 a.m., two female UVa students encountered a group of white males, one of whom proceeded to comment on their “multi-culturalism” (one student is bi-racial; one is white). After asking him to clarify what he meant by this comment, the girls were called “niggers” repeatedly, aggressively, and without apology. With no sense of regret or fear for consequences, this male proceeded to emphasize the phrase, looking directly in the eyes of the two female students, who were understandably too shocked and upset to respond.
I wish we could characterize this as an unfortunate but rare example of hate on grounds.
The fact is, we cannot.
Instances like the above are far more pervasive and common than we would like to admit, and far too often, our concern over maintaining our University’s reputation for tolerance and justice pushes these serious events to the margins of our community. What is common is characterized as uncommon; what is traumatic is described as politicized; what is a serious crime is downgraded to a verbal slip-up. Equally seriously, students, like those mentioned above, find they have no legal or institutional recourse to address these attacks, thus leading to an environment in which students believe it is socially acceptable to call students by names they would not choose for themselves, to judge others based on the color of their skin or the sound of their name, or to inculcate a climate in which racism and discrimination are characterized as acceptable opinion rather than intolerable hatred.
But that can change. It is up to us to live up to and stand up for the ideals of our University rather than try to obsure the instances in which we do not. It is up to us to fight discrimination and hatred in all forms it takes, and to, through conversations, education, and interactions, combat the fear and intolerance that precipitate these attacks. It is up to us to stand up for an inclusive, community-minded environment and stand up against blatant discrimination. Finally, it is up to us to provide appropriate, supportive, and easily navigated channels for students who are victims of similar offenses to bring them to the attention of the University with the full understanding that their voice will be heard.
Racism is incompatible and irreconcilable with our University’s ideals. We will not tolerate it. We will not stand for it, and we will not allow members of our University community to be judged or ostracized for outdated, irrelevant, and hateful stereotypes.
Know that we as the Student Council Diversity Initiatives Committee will be doing everything in our power to ensure that these voices will not be silenced and that appropriate actions will be taken to address the severity of this crime, to improve the quality and supportiveness of a response, and to work toward reconciling the basic issues that lead to the perpetuation of these offenses.
As part of these steps toward reconciliation, students will be collecting signatures in a Pledge FORWARD campaign on Monday, April 26, from 12 – 5 pm on the Lawn. Following the collection of signatures, which will be published in the Cavalier Daily as a testament to the support, trust, and community-mindedness of our University, we will be gathering on the South Lawn outside Old Cabell from 5-6 pm. Please wear black to this event (and throughout the day) to show your solidarity with students, past, present, and future, who have been victims of hate crimes and racial bias. If you have any questions on how to get involved, either as an individual or organization, in this and future programming attempting to combat racism and prejudice, please email Carrie Filipetti at CLF7M@virginia.edu.
Student Council Diversity Initiatives Committee