I woke up on Wednesday morning ready to face my day. I checked facebook like I normally do and saw a picture of a Confederate flag with stalks of cotton attached to it. I immediately realized that for the second time this year, AU had been the subject of racist attacks. I was shocked. While I had read about this spring’s incident and had seen videos of the protests that followed, I was not on campus. This time was different, I read the emails sent from our President Sylvia Burwell and Public Safety written to inform the community of the events, and I looked on Facebook for any more news about the incident. The first thing I said to my friend as I greeted her this morning was “did you hear,” and I walked into class feeling uneasy, wondering if anyone would bring it up. Sure enough, someone asked my professor if she had heard about what happened last night. She had not and a few students explained it to her and anyone in the class who hadn't heard. I sat there in shock still trying to process why someone would come onto my campus and post such vile signs. While trying to collect my thoughts, I composed a facebook post to inform my family and friends back home about what had happened.
It's during these times when I feel ashamed to be on this campus. It is time for us to stand together and support one another. This kind of speech is not welcome here at American University, and these actions are not a reflection of the AU community. The timing and placement of these signs make this all even more horrifying. That being said, the fact that a middle-aged man felt it necessary to come onto campus and post these signs shows us what kind of a world we live in. I stand in support of all of those affected by these events.
Halfway through the day, as students, faculty members, administrators, alumni, and community members sit down at the Kay Spiritual Center for a town hall, I couldn’t help but think. How is it possible that a supposed member of a White supremacist group called “D.C. Counter Resistance” can come onto our campus with the intent to harm? How is it possible for someone to physically come inside our buildings at 10:00 at night? What steps are we taking to secure our campus and prevent these types of actions in the future?
For many, the obvious answer is additional police and security personnel on campus, but for others, especially Black students, this is seen as a threat to personal; safety. We are and have always been to the best of my knowledge, an open campus, so there is no way we would close it to the public, but as Dr. Ibram Kendi mentioned in today’s town hall, some universities with open campuses require students to swipe their ID’s to get into any campus building. I do not know anything about our budget here at AU, but if you have to swipe into your residence hall, why shouldn't you have to swipe into the Library or the Student Center, both of which are open 24 hours.
Also during the town hall, Student Body president Taylor Dumpson, who’s sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha was the subject of a racially motivated attack last semester, the day she assumed office as the first Black Female President, brought up the list of grievances created after the last town hall in May. She stated that while the University had taken some steps to address students’ concerns, there is still a long way to go. According to Taylor, there has been an attack of some kind every single semester since her Freshman year. No student should have to see these acts of hate in a place where they should feel safe and supported. While the administration has come out in support of all students, but particularly students of color and “other marginalized groups”, which demonstrates the values of inclusion talked about by President Burwell and others, there are more productive steps they can take, namely addressing the grievances put forth this spring.
As a White woman, I was not personally attacked by these signs, but as an American University Student, an American, and a person, I can’t help but feel angered and upset. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail “injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” While we recover from these attacks as a community, it is important for everyone to recognize their place, realize that some people are hurting more than others, and reflect on their own values.
This attack does not represent my values, nor the values of American University, and I stand with you.