Luther is not exempt from racism and discrimination

Makeda Barkley, Managing Editor

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With the recent attention that St. Olaf has been receiving for the racist acts taking place on their campus, I think it is worthwhile to take a second to look at ourselves as a campus community in relation to our Minnesota neighbors. A St. Olaf student of color found a violently racist threat from an anonymous source  left on her car windshield last week, sparking several days of campus-wide protests at St. Olaf. According to an article in the Washington Post, this was not the first racist threat or message targeting students of color on their campus this year. For some of us that are part of the white population on Luther’s campus, I think this might be somewhat shocking or surprising for us to hear as we are never the target of racist hate speech and rarely experience racist behaviors in person because of our skin color. However, for those who feel surprised or shocked by the events taking place on St. Olaf’s campus, you are oblivious to the very same climate on our own campus here at Luther.

On a primarily white campus like that of Luther or St. Olaf, it is easy for white students to remain ignorant of the daily racism that their fellow students of color experience here. I am also guilty of this ignorance, having never experienced it firsthand and rarely hearing about the more extreme instances from the victims. However, talk to any student of color at Luther about their experiences with racism and discrimination both on campus and in Decorah and I believe that any of them could easily think a single or multiple personal experiences where they have been the victim of hate behaviors. In the recent strategic planning survey that was sent out to all of Luther’s campus, active diversity and inclusion was one of the top issues that was asked to be addressed, over and over. Campuses nationwide have been experiencing upheaval from students of color and allies who have had enough with racist behaviors, from Mizzou and Harvard to the UC Berkeley protests of far-right guest speakers. This isn’t happening in a vacuum, and it isn’t a new thing. Students of color are harassed and discriminated against on campuses nationwide, Luther College included.

I don’t have a solution for what is taking place in our country and on our campuses and it would be naive of me to pretend like I did. The purpose of this piece is to argue that while what happened at St. Olaf is extremely upsetting and unacceptable, this is not an isolated issue and it is something that also happens at Luther. It’s easy to stand back and point to St. Olaf’s current situation from our pedestal because our own racism on campus hasn’t come to the forefront. Just because similar behaviors on our own campus haven’t resulted in campus-wide protests and the cancellation of classes doesn’t mean that our own students of color are not experiencing similar prejudice and hate behaviors. We can move toward radical change for the better by fostering a community of inclusivity and condemning those that are perpetuating hate and racism. Support your fellow students of color, make an effort to be aware of the systemic and individual racism they experience, and make it clear that hateful behavior has no place here.

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