Black students being called the N-word as they walk through campus, numerous social media posts from former and current Bearcats documenting racism on campus, our very own columnist stating he doesn’t always feel safe in Maryville because of his skin color and a letter to the editor that is racist and abhorrent. Racism is at Northwest, and unless we all do something about it, it’s not going away.
A certain amount of backlash was expected after the publishing of “Being black in Maryville means never feeling safe.” Given the current political climate, it was expected that some would line up against our columnist in a feckless pursuit to prove that racism and white privilege do not exist in Maryville or anywhere else in the U.S. However, the venom, malice and racism displayed by those in the community, particularly the author of a letter to the editor sent to The Missourian, demand a direct response from this newspaper and the Northwest community.
The audacity of a white person to attempt and tell a person of color that they don’t experience racism is something that will never make sense. You don’t tell a victim of child abuse their trauma isn’t valid because you yourself weren’t abused as a child, because that would be asinine.
The letter is not veiled in its racist statements. The author frequently referred to Black people in a derogatory way, stating that “they” act like toddlers and seek handouts from the government. The author also wrote that he is tired of “racial grief” and hearing the concerns of people of color.
“Get off your butt, go to work, do your best, uphold your family name,” wrote the author, a Northwest student, who conveniently ignored the numerous challenges Black people face in America such as the wage gap, police brutality and systematic racism.
This kind of rhetoric seems more in place in a Jim Crow era than it does a whole two decades into the 21st century, but that is the sad reality we live in.
Racism did not end with desegregation; that is apparent if anyone has spent any time in a comment section of a post about people of color. Northwest, to its credit, has been ramping up its efforts to combat racism ever since the senseless killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion has hosted numerous events, including a town hall on June 23 with faculty, alumni and students. They recently received a $1 million dollar gift from Karen L. Daniel Legacy Fund that will help them build a resource center for Black students. Every member of the Board of Regents, as well as 99% of all of Northwest staff and faculty, completed mandatory diversity training.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is also looking into providing more in-depth training related to bias and privilege and is planning to announce required student training in September, said Justin Mallett, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
The University is doing an admirable job attempting to create a place free of racism, but for Northwest to truly combat the hateful plague, it’s going to take all of us.
Listening to minorities when they talk about their experiences with racism, taking action when we see racism happening on campus and holding people accountable are things we all can do in order to make everyone feel safe at Northwest.
However, all of the things that Mallett and Northwest leadership impose in regards to diversity and inclusion will mean nothing if white people in this community don't wake up and realize that racism is real and it's here. And if you are not an ally and you choose to remain silent, you are part of the problem.
We all must do better to make the experience better for those around us.