“Ignorance, arrogance, and racism have bloomed as Superior Knowledge in all too many universities.” – Alice Walker
Last Friday’s town meeting with the Board of Trustees was a farce, especially to students of color.
Several students and I attended last Friday’s meeting to voice our support for three pending proposals that call for the restructuring of the Office of Afro-American Affairs, the creation of Asian-American Advocacy Dean and Asian Cultural Center, and the establishment of a Latino Studies department.
As we walked into the Georgian Room, we were greeted by the IU Board of Trustees, who, at first glance, conspicuously resemble the jury in the first Rodney King case – all white. After waiting patiently for our turn to speak, I was shocked by the Board’s attempt to adjourn without hearing our concerns. Finally, after the Trustees were reminded of our presence, we were given a few minutes to speak, but our voice seemed to fall upon deaf ears. While we spoke, whispers along the with the sound of rustling papers smothered the room, suggesting that Trustees were ready to go and didn’t give a damn about what we had to say.
Considering our experience with the Board of Trustees, it is no surprise this campus is incredibly hostile toward students of color – not only are many of IU’s students racist, but many of its administrators are as well.
“Top Story: February 14th, 1990. Today a woman was assaulted in a laundry room at Redbud Hill apartments. After identifying her assailant as an Asian male, IU police obtained a list of Redbud residents whose names “looked” Asian, and proceeded to interrogate and harass several residents, recklessly subjecting them to a callous questioning process and a dehumanizing strip search.”
Responding to the pervasive racism – both individual and institutional – on this campus, several students, many of them present at the Trustees meeting, have formed a coalition. They draw their membership from the Black Students Union, the Asian American Association, Latinos Unidos, the Asian Student Union, Conscious Oppressed Unified Peoples and Griot. The Coalition’s main purpose is to see to it, through activism, the injustices inflicted upon students of color are rectified, and the administration no longer marginalizes students of color.
“Top Story: October 7th, 1993. Today several IUSA Senators launched racist remarks at members of Latinos Unidos. The LUIU members were asking IUSA for assistance in funding the LUIU Parents Weekend banquet when one Senator suggested they hold it at “La Cucaracha.” Both comments incited boisterous laughter within the nearly all-white assembly.”
Edwardo Rhodes, associate vice-chancellor for academic affairs, said IU “has one of the worst undergraduate minority percentages in the Big Ten.” This comes as no surprise. Why would students of color want to attend IU? There are no forms of institutional support. We do not have a Latino Studies Department. We don’t have an Asian Cultural Center or an Asian-American Advocacy office. And our Office of Afro-American Affairs is nothing but a token office – powerless – set up for failure.
“Top Story: October 4th, 1995. Today, as students scurried to their morning classes; they were greeted with racial epithets chalked on the sidewalk in front of Beck Chapel. Commenting on the recent O.J. Simpson verdict, the sidewalk read, “OPPRESSED MY ASS. ANOTHER NIGGER BEAT THE SYSTEM.””
Facing racism is an everyday reality for students of color. They are an intentional numerical minority on this campus: African Americans represent less than 4 percent of the student population, Asian Americans represent 3 percent, and Latinos comprise about 2 percent. Separated, we have little power, but together, students of color can change the face of this institution.
It is painfully obvious positive change won’t come at the hands of the Board of Trustees or from the IU administration. To many of them, we are invisible, or better yet, non-existent. Progress won’t come without a price. We must struggle, we must fight, we must pressure the administration to act on our concerns. In the words of A. Phillip Randolph, “Nothing counts but pressure, pressure, and more pressure, and still more pressure through broad organized aggressive mass action.”
“Top Story: 1996 (near future). Broad-based massive student protests continue for the fourth day in a row. Tension is high, and it appears the students will not back down.”