Black HistoryNational

AU Protest Aimed at Racists on Campus

The words on Ben Carr’s T-shirt resonated in many ways for the hundreds of protesters outside of American University in Northwest on Monday.

“So Damn Black,” read the letters on the front of the shirt that snugly fit Carr’s broad shoulders. And, perhaps, it was the completion of that slogan that hammered home a single powerful message: “So Damn Proud.”

The protests were held after several alleged incidents of racism that led the AU Student Government Senate to unanimously pass a resolution condemning those acts.

“I went there, not as a student, but as a concerned African-American parent who knows what it’s like for our children to be discriminated against and who knows what it’s like when nothing is done about the matter,” Carr said during a telephone interview Monday evening.

He declined to say whether he had children or relatives who attend AU.

His T-shirt, he said, was the message the media and others should deliver.

On Sept. 8, an African-American woman reported that someone threw a banana at her while she was in her dorm room and another Black woman said she found a rotten banana outside her door along with obscene drawings on the whiteboard attached to her door.

Further, officials at AU’s Black Student Alliance, which represents African-American groups on campus, said Black students at the college have experienced blatant racism that include the N-word written on doors.

They said messages like “go back to Africa” have also been scrawled on school property at the school which, according to Forbes Magazine, has a student population of just over 13,000.

Student body demographics: 62 percent female and 38 percent male. More than half – 55 percent – are white while 10.5 percent are considered Hispanic or Latino and 6.2 percent are listed as African-American.

“American University’s negligence is what has allowed this to happen. There’s a reason students feel comfortable [enough] to assault Black students on campus,” Black Student Alliance President Ma’at Sargeant said during Monday’s protest.

“Nothing is ever done; no AU alerts, no consequences. Just town halls where we speak to deaf ears,” Sargeant said.

AU’s Black Student Alliance, an umbrella organization for Black groups on campus, said racial hatred has sparked outrage on campus and prompted a call to suspend the students who were involved.

They said this isn’t the first time Black students at the university have experienced blatant racism. Protesters said the university has a history of ignoring racism.

“Nothing is ever done; no AU alerts, no consequences. Just town halls where we speak to deaf ears,” Sargeant said.

AU officials have said the students responsible for the incidents have been disciplined.

“In recent days, two incidents of unacceptable student behavior were reported that left our African-American students and others shaken, upset, and even feeling unsafe,” University President Neil Kerwin said in a memo released on Monday.

“The second act of misconduct involved an explicit racist incident in a residence hall,” Kerwin said. “Such acts are reprehensible and are the antithesis of the values and standards we embrace as a university.”

Kerwin expressed “deep disappointment” and “frustration” that those events have disrupted American University, challenging efforts to build an inclusive campus culture.

“They simply have no place here. We will confront racist expressions with forceful condemnation and respond to discrimination with every tool at our disposal. It is incumbent on the university to respond clearly and to educate those who cause harm with their insensitivity and ignorance,” he said.

Meanwhile, AU Student Government President Dovontae Torriente said the community is hurting and Black students are feeling excluded, unsafe and threatened, all of which are unacceptable.

“The Residence Life and Dean of Students offices acted swiftly to investigate the matter and determine what exactly happened. We can rest assured that they are doing all they can to resolve the matter on their end, but we have to continue to hold them responsible for the sake of our students,” Torriente said.

“I think the larger context of the situation has to be considered. The hurt and pain that our Black students endure do not stem from this one instance; they are part of the more systemic and institutional issue of racism that pervades the nation and the world,” he said.

“It speaks to the struggles of being a Black student at a predominately white institution and the discrimination we face in the classroom and in the residence halls, at the hands of our professors and our peers. As a Black student, I know that we have every right to be fed up,” Torriente said.

“What we experience on a daily basis can be demoralizing and weigh heavily on us. As your president, I implore each and every member of our community to continue to work to devise solutions and hold each other accountable. Let us not only do better, but let us do better together,” he said.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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