The Perpetuation of Racism on Campus and Beyond

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. Photo by Tony Webster.

We have a rhetorical race war spreading across America. Racism is not a new phenomenon in this country, but the form and fashion is ever-changing.

Georgia Southern University student Jamar A. Boyd II says, “[I] stand with the black students at Mizzou. The Georgia Southern University NAACP stands in solidarity too.” The GSU NAACP chapter staged a “Black Out, Walk Out” last Tuesday followed by a meeting at the student union which featured a forum titled “Niggas vs. Negus.” Ali Ross, 23, a Georgia Southern junior believes the forum will “break down barriers” and will allow students to “really discuss some of the things that I feel like… in light of what’s been going in, need to be said.”

As a recent Georgia Southern Alumni I am aware of the atmosphere on campus. It is no secret that the Russell Union building is a gathering place predominantly for the African American student population; similarly, I would assume most black students would feel uncomfortable walking down “Greek row.” Racism, and prejudice is REAL, but on BOTH SIDES.

Benjamin Watson recently published a book titled Under Our Skin in which he reveals the naked truth about his own prejudice toward whites, and his rational behind those prejudices. In an interview with Fox News Watson said, “yes, we do have a problem when it comes to how we see each other, the color of our skin, how we treat each other; but ultimately under that we all have an issue called sin that we have to deal with. We need a changed heart, and from that we can look at our brothers and sisters no matter what color they are, and see them with the love of Christ, and treat them accordingly because our heart has been changed.”

We need to judge one another individually, not as a collective. We need to look within ourselves and understand why we have these emotions, and go from there. This should not be a WAR between black and white, it should be a conversation. We all see the world differently, we cannot ever truly know what it is like to be someone, or something we are not, but that does not mean we ignore those differences. The only way to work toward a culture of understanding is by discussing those differences in an open, respectful way.

At current, the rhetoric on both sides is hateful, offensive, and collectivist. The fact that we have SIDES is the first problem with this issue. The language we use matters. I appreciate the fact that my alma mater is having this conversation, but titling the forum “Niggas vs. Negus” is an unhealthy way to activate the conversation. First of all I’m not quite sure what this title is supposed to mean. Seeing that Negus is a title for royalty in the Ethiopian Semitic language, I’m unsure if the group is insinuating they are not “Niggas,” but rather “Negus,” or if they are trying to say white culture sees them as “Niggas,” but views themselves as “Negus.” Regardless, both this group at GSU, and the national rhetoric create, and perpetuate an atmosphere of “us” versus “them.” If the aim of this forum, and national news media is to encourage peace and unification amongst people, despite racial differences, then titling the forum X vs. Y is not the best approach.

It isn’t black vs. white, nor should it be. Starting a conversation off by rhetorically situating one side versus the other will never create unity, but rather will further deepen our variances. We have far greater problems plaguing our nation than race, and we are much stronger as a united nation than a divided one.

Ultimately, race is not a national problem; it is an individual problem that has the potential for a national solution. So what is that solution? Well, first we have to understand that individual racism is normally a progression from extreme prejudice based on existing stereotypes. While some stereotypes are incorrect, others hold true, and while stereotyping has downfalls, it is also a form of individual protection. With that being said, education is the key.

The facts are there; the black community is suffering. Overall, the African American community earns lower wages, receives less education, has a higher poverty rate, and a higher incarceration rate, just to name a few; I could go on, and on. However, the problem is NOT skin color; the problem is poverty. Poverty has a vicious cycle in America, and in order to address race relations, poverty first must be analyzed. Unfortunately, addressing the issue of poverty is complicated, and controversial, and requires rigorous analysis, but that is a conversation for another day.

The “institutionalized” racism we see in the United States today is multilayered, historical, and intricate. The solution is not to throw up our hands, stomp our feet, and pin one side against another. Creating cohesion, and unification requires cooperation in its INCEPTION. I urge anyone who truly seeks to better this nation by encouraging peace, and unification across racial lines to first think about the words they use, the rhetorical significants of those words, and the analogous insinuations they encourage. The solution will never come with an “us vs. them” mentality. If we honestly want peace, we must think peacefully, those who create and perpetuate the culture of opposition do not seek peace.

Ultimately, what people say, says more about them, than it does the subject of conversation. So watch your words, they speak louder than you do.


Editor’s Note: This article was authored by Krista Cutcliff and originally published at her website The Daily Debate. Reprinted here in its original form with permission.

Photo: Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. Photo by Tony Webster.

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