At a time when students of color are besieged by racially driven attacks, NAACP used its monthly telephone conference on Feb. 19 to host a discussion titled “The State of Black Students in America.”
Tiffany Dena Lofton, national director of the NAACP’s Youth and College Division and the event’s moderator, fielded a range of questions from students from across the country that were answered by a diverse panel of guests.
Lofton opened the call by talking about the role and responsibility of the NAACP.
“If we want solutions that please us and make our lives better, they have to be driven by the people on the phone and the people affected,” she said.
The panelists included Brandon Evans, president of the University of Hartford chapter of the NAACP; Brea Baker, program director of Inspire Justice; Zellie Imani, co-founder of the Black Liberation Collective; Delanie Seals, a high school senior and organizer of #HeadWrapsMatter; and Yoel Haile, political director of the Afrikan Black Coalition.
When one caller asked about discrimination on predominantly white campuses, Imani said, “one of the most common problems is the white supremacy on these campuses and the complacency by the university officials.”
“If you bring an incident to their attention, oftentimes they will make it seem as though it is an isolated incident,” Imani said. “Students have to demand that they feel safe on their campuses. These universities need to do something systemically and policy-wise.”
Just last week, students who staged a sit-in at Syracuse University in protest of hate crimes and racial rhetoric on the New York campus were handed suspension letters. To date, no student has been reprimanded for the hate crimes during the fall semester.
Such incidents have increased in regularity in recent years, with sometimes tragic results.
In May 2017, Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins, a Black student at Bowie State University, was fatally stabbed by a white man on the campus of the University of Maryland, just days before he was to graduate.
Three months later, Neo-Nazis, “alt-right” members and white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us” as they marched with torches through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. A subsequent clash with counterprotesters resulted in three deaths, including a young woman killed when a reported Nazi sympathizer drove a vehicle into a crowd of demonstrators.
High school student Delanie Seals, who has long pushed for culturally sensitive dress code policies at her Oklahoma school, said such inclusive measures are necessary.
“When you have people who look like you and have experienced the same things as you, you get more empathy and more support when it comes to issues that concern you,” Delanie said.
“Even before I was able to vote, I was making sure that I was contacting my state representatives and telling them the issues that I see in our schools,” she said. “I think it’s very important for Black residents to tell their representatives what they’re struggling with and their concerns.”
Haile ended the conference call by quoting Kwame Ture: “If your people are oppressed and you are not making a contribution to end the sufferings of your people, by your very act of inaction, you are against your people — there is no middle ground.”
“None of us has the luxury to sit out of the struggle,” Haile said. “We shouldn’t ever have the feeling that we get to sit out on the struggle of healing our people.”
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