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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Responsibility is on the students

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What we all must do to address a racist culture

“In the early morning hours of October 24, one member of a small group of students called a female African-American public safety officer the N-word in response to being asked to lower their voices” University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. wrote in an email, which was sent to the university community on Thursday, Oct. 24.

Reed also wrote that the university “identified the students and served them an interim suspension pending a hearing.” The next day, Cheryl McConnell, Ph.D., provost and vice president of academic affairs, wrote an email to the university community giving further detail regarding a “university forum to build a campus wide dialogue around diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The event will take place on Monday, Nov. 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. in Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena. In order to “allow all interested students and employees” to attend the event, all classes between 2 and 4 p.m. are canceled.

This forum is an appropriate first step by university administration to address “another racist incident on campus.” Moreover, Reed sent his email on the same day as the incident and was clear in describing the students’ actions as racist.

In our previous editorial, we addressed the university’s inadequate response to the n-word being written on a white board on a resident’s door in LaFarge Hall. Perhaps now the university is taking the right steps towards addressing acts of racism, systemic racism and racial inequality.

While the administration is taking the necessary preliminary steps to address these specific acts of racism, acts of racism continue to happen on campus, and many don’t get reported. Maybe this is indicative that we as students are not doing enough to address racism in our midst.

It is a culmination of microaggressions as well as these acts of racism we’ve witnessed over the past two weeks that creates a campus culture of racism.

We, the students here, should hold ourselves and our peers more accountable when those around us commit acts of racism, whether fueled by racial hatred or ignorance. As a student body, we should not just verbally condemn racism, but follow this condemnation with meaningful action.

We have criticized the slow responses to acts of racism from university administration. We have critiqued the inattentiveness and negligible effort to address racial inequality from the top. However, that is clearly not enough.

This is worth repeating; It’s time we hold each other accountable for what our peers say and how our peers respond to acts of racism, in order to foster real change.

On a campus with a student population that is almost 80% white, it is the responsibility of this population of white students to challenge racism in order to uphold the integrity of our university’s mission in pursuit of racial social justice and equality.

To fulfill our collective responsibility we must acknowledge that white privilege is real on our campus. Let’s identify this privilege and use it as a way to challenge the culture of racism on our campus.

Students are inclined to become defensive when they are forced to talk about their white privilege. We must accept that having conversations about racism can be uncomfortable, especially for white people. Imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end of racism.

These conversations should not be easy. Challenging racism is characteristically hard work. It is this provocative discourse and difficult conversations with those around you that increase the prospects for change.

So have these conversations with your peers, especially those who are apathetic towards the topics of racism, systemic racism and racial inequality. It is those who avoid the discussions, avoid the forums and continue to use racial slurs who need to be taking part in action.

If you are reading The Hawk’s reporting of racial bias incidents on campus, then you are already beginning to allow yourself to take part in the larger conversation of racial injustice that permeates society.

However, we need discussions and we need further action. We urge all students who hear this call to action to take it upon themselves to push for change.

Challenge your friends who take part in racist conversations or actions. Confront white privilege in all of its manifestations. Attend all racial justice events on campus, including this upcoming forum. Most importantly, continue to self-reflect and address the role race plays in each of our individual lives.

While the administration is working to demonstrate it is capable of promoting social justice, the student body should be following suit, because it is the attitudes and actions of the student body that creates the campus culture here.

In addressing racial injustice on a personal level in our daily lives, this student body will embrace our university’s mission in promoting substantial efforts in advancing racial justice and social equality.

—The Editorial Board

This week’s Editorial Board is comprised of the Senior Editor, Digital Managing Editor, Online Editor, Special Projects Editor, Assistant News Editor, Copy Chief, Photo Editor, Assistant Features Editor, and Opinions Editor. This editorial reflects the views of the Board and not the entire Hawk staff.

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