The State of the Black Campus
By Jordan Taylor and Luana Horry
We, the Black People of SUNY New Paltz and those in solidarity with us, are disgusted, outraged and deeply disturbed by the constant disrespect we encounter on this campus. We say people because this issue is not just upsetting to the students, but to the faculty and the administrative staff as well. Prior incidents, such as the “Colored Only” sign which was posted over one of the water fountains in Humanities, along with the paper cut in the shape of a hand giving the inappropriate middle finger gesture which read “Lynch the Niggers November 10th at 7:30pm Main Lounge” posted in Lefevre Hall, are still very fresh in our minds.
In addition, we had someone deface the Shango Parking Lot sign and change it to “Django Parking,” which is disrespectful to the history of Shango Hall and what it means, not only to the college, but to the Black community as a whole. As a community, we are continuously dealing with the manifestation of white supremacy and ignorance. This can be seen in its latest form, “Emmett Till Deserved to Die,” which by the way, once erased, was replaced with something along the lines of “Don’t Erase the Truth.”
The Administration has many times in the past referred to these events (and the heterosexist signs that promoted Queerphobia) as “isolated incidents.”
These are not isolated incidents. These are the physical manifestations of racism on this campus, which does not always surface itself into something tangible but is always present.
It is present in the ignorance of our white peers who ask us to rap for them, dance for them, ask our opinion on their shoes, assume Africa is a country and/or are surprised that there are cities similar to New York across the continent and say the N-word around us, putting us in the awkward situation of letting them slide, not because we are actually cool with it, but because we do not want to take the time out of the day to explain to them the problem and cause friction between us.
It is present not only in the mis-racing of the alleged sexual abuser on Plattekill as a Black male a few weeks back, but also releasing his race in the first place. This is not to condone the alleged actions of the student; anyone who sexually abuses anyone deserves to rot in prison and must find mental help so that they do not offend again. We just want to know what purpose does releasing his racial identity serve if he is detained?
If the campus was really in need of a description of the accused, why not go into his height, facial features, etc.? Was this done to paint an image of fear, encouraging demonizing the Black male presence on this campus? The same demonization that led to the murder of Trayvon Martin?
Society is already afraid of us to begin with. This is problematic because these recent incidents demonstrate a psychological assault on Black masculinity on this campus by saying a 14-year-old Black boy who whistled at a white woman 60 years ago deserved to die. Both these situations speak to the historical context of white women and male of color relations. So, yes, we believe there is a connection.
Furthermore, it is present in the blatant dismissal of the Black community’s concerns on the drop of the Black population at SUNY New Paltz from 12 to five percent from 2001 to 2012 and the presence of less than 100 Black males on this campus as of spring 2013. It is present in the lack of African related courses or material throughout all the departments, specifically the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It is present in the Pre-Black Solidarity Day Vigil march around campus which always results in racial slurs and other hateful comments being shouted at us from the residence halls as we remember our ancestors. It is present in not only the history of the “Hasbrouck Eight” at Hasbrouck Dining Hall, but simply in the naming of Hasbrouck Dining Hall, Dubois Hall and Deyo Hall. As we are aware, the Hasbrouck, Dubois and Deyo families were prominent slave-owning families in this area.
We demand respect. We want our contributions to be not just this campus, but to this country and this world recognized. We want to feel safe knowing that the larger campus accepts us as equal human beings with insecurities, passions, potential and purpose.
To obtain a safer community on the campus for all students, it is imperative that we have the support of the faculty and administration when racist acts such as those aforementioned occur. It is normal for the Black student body and all those who ally with us, to feel outraged by the Emmett Till incident that occurred last weekend. It is our right to share this information with our peers through any form of communication, including social media. The sharing of the information with others was meant to raise awareness — not to stymie any efforts of the University Police Department’s investigation of the occurrence.
How many people, students, faculty and administration would have been informed of this incident otherwise? How many of us actually pay attention to the surplus of emails that we received every day?
The Facebook post allowed for information to reach a wide range of people on this campus, which is not only a right, but also it is extremely advantageous. Since the information is out there and the proper police documents have been filed, we demand action to be taken.
We unanimously agree that cooperation and support from the president of the school, the professors and the many people who make SUNY New Paltz the school that it is now, to join us in efforts to enforce policy so that SUNY New Paltz can be the safe and diverse school that it advertises itself to be.
At a time like this, especially with the “Let’s Talk About It” symposium approaching, real discussions need to take place. Education is key in this situation. However, we demand that whosoever committed this hate crime against Black students on this campus, undergo some type of disciplinary action and face the repercussions of his/her hate. Some action needs to be taken so much so that this type of slandering will not be “okay” in the minds of the students here and future students to come.
The first step to creating a safe environment for the students on this campus is for us, as a complete body, to collectively formulate practical and effective solutions. We also strongly urge for disciplinary consequences to avoid any further propagation of hate crimes against already marginalized groups of our society. We welcome all who see this to attend the pre-Black Solidarity Day Vigil on Sunday, November 3rd at 7:00pm in Shango Hall’s kitchen, as well as Black Solidarity Day the following morning.