Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Miami community must break the "cycle" of racism

The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Last semester, a first-year student incited outrage in the Miami community when he used the N-word in a GroupMe chat. The student, Thomas Wright, apologized at the time and claimed, through comments on a Facebook post condemning his actions, that he was "ashamed" and "embarrassed."

But last week, a screenshot began circulating of a Tinder exchange someone had with Wright over spring break, in which he bragged about being "way edgier" than them. He used an article -- the one that we wrote -- about his use of the racial slur to back that up.

Again, the screenshot sparked fury among students, and generated written responses from Associated Student Government, the collective and the administration.

More notable than that, though, was the response from students, who organized three protests in three days -- in Armstrong Student Center, in the Farmer School of Business and outside President Crawford's office in Roudebush Hall.

As Rodney Coates, Global and Intercultural Studies professor and coordinator of the Black World Studies program, wrote in an op-ed for the Student last fall, this series of events -- outrage over a racist incident, then subsequent protests -- is "cyclical." Every three or four years, he explained, a new class of students arrives who has not experienced past years of fighting against discrimination.

"Thus, after an 'event' we ramp up institutional resources to effectively educate, sensitize and socialize a given cohort of students . . . as effective as these strategies might be in the short term, they may have limited impact on the next wave of students."

But, while activism is nothing new on Miami's campus, four protests in the span of four days -- not to mention plans for more -- is something we haven't seen before. This has the potential to break the "cycle" Coates explained in his op-ed.

The students who organized and participated in the protests, who are primarily African American, are also requesting very specific things from the university and its students. Junior Imani Steele told the Student last week that they want Miami's administration to issue a better Climate Survey, improve upon their minority recruitment efforts and establish rehabilitation programs following racist incidents.

They also want stronger responses from the administration when these racist acts occur. While Crawford issued a statement via Twitter last week, addressed to the Miami community, calling for a more "inclusive and welcoming" Miami, he did not directly address Thomas Wright or his actions.

Obviously, Crawford can't singlehandedly absolve Miami of racism. But his failure to specifically explain and condemn Wright's actions normalizes that kind of behavior and presents a missed opportunity to educate students -- many of whom probably had no idea exactly what "intolerance" and "bigotry" he was referring to in his statement.

We, as we feel everyone should, stand with these student activists and protesters, and believe that they can enact change in the Miami community. Their demands are not only reasonable, but necessary for administrators and other students to meet, if we actually want to start, as Crawford said, "creating the kind of community where everyone feels welcome."