Hello Charlottesville — I’m Cari, and it is an honor to be blogging for you.
I don’t want all of my guest posts to be about U.Va. but I did want to write about recent racial incidents that have occurred here. As many of you know, black students have reported a number of racist threats since the beginning of the semester, including several comments shouted from cars and a racist epithet found on a student’s door. There have also been reported threats against a gay student.
This week, racist graffiti was discovered on Beta Bridge, a bridge that students traditionally repaint to celebrate events and student groups. A summary from Student Council President Jequeatta Upton:
On the Kappa side there were the words:
There were also pictures of a red eye, breasts, and a woman in a
spread-eagle pose. Along with the picture of the breasts was a message
that read: “Bitch/Tits… In The House.”
On the B.U.C.K.S. side was a painting of a bloody face and the message
“We’ll Be Back.”
In response, students held a rally to condemn these incidents, and President Casteen issued a statement to the community. A march to the lawn is scheduled for tomorrow, and some groups have suggested wearing black t-shirts to this weekend’s football game.
My impression is that while there is a great deal of concern among students, nobody really knows what to do about these incidents and the racial tensions on grounds. Student groups have held a number of symbolic protests, but these events are attended by a core group of activists and derided as ineffective by many others. Education efforts are also a hard sell, since no one believes she needs a lesson in diversity.
Students have offered a number of suggestions that the administration should consider, such as addressing student safety concerns with additional lighting, security cameras, and a better system for reporting these incidents. But no one really knows how to stop the people who are depraved and cowardly enough to yell racist threats from moving cars.
However, we can address the damage that these incidents inflict on the community. While the vast majority of U.Va. students are quick to condemn racism, students who have not been directly targeted don’t seem to grasp the effect that these incidents have on members of the targeted communities. There is a lot of resistance to education from students who don’t see a problem beyond these isolated incidents. But students have been made to feel threatened and humiliated in a place where they should feel welcome and safe, and we need to take their feelings seriously.
Some have suggested that those responsible are not from U.Va. but rather from the surrounding areas — something students might like to believe is true — but no matter who is responsible, these incidents should concern both the University and the surrounding area, since anyone who would target our students is a surely a threat to the larger community as well.