We are all responsible for racism

Have we forgotten?

Men and women marched hand in hand. People spent nights in jail. Protesters were met with hoses and attack dogs.

More than 40 years ago, the civil rights movement changed the makeup of this country. Americans of all races joined together in the name of freedom to attempt to ensure that we could all live in peace today.

This generation, which has never experienced life without the civil rights movement, takes the racial harmony of this country for granted. We don’t examine racial problems because we don’t believe they happen anymore.

We’re wrong.

Racism continually causes tension at Kent State – and a few recent events have brought this underlying tension to the surface.

On Sept. 22, campus maintenance found the “n-word” painted on a university sign outside of the Student Recreational and Wellness Center. Less than a week later, rumors surfaced of a noose hung in a Pan-African Studies professor’s office.

Faculty and students of all races were outraged that such problems could happen at Kent State, especially considering the university’s reputation of being open-minded.

Within the course of these upsetting events, President Lester Lefton issued a statement denouncing racism. Black United Students, one of the largest minority groups on campus, had an emergency meeting, appeared on a radio show and had a press conference addressing racism at Kent State.

Still, there was mass confusion that could have been somewhat prevented after the university sign was vandalized. And while we were infuriated and disturbed by the sudden surge of race-related crime at Kent State, we were also disappointed by the responses of the Kent State administration and BUS.

The validity of the noose rumor is still questionable and there appears to be a general understanding that Kent State still needs to resolve its race problems.

Because these race problems exist, both the administration and BUS should have had a plan to deal with racially charged hate crimes.

An e-mail from Lefton about racism was a good start at addressing the campus vandalism, but it definitely was not enough. Lefton needs to make sure his diversity plan includes making diverse groups feel safe at Kent State.

Lefton would have felt more pressure to take action if BUS had enlisted the help of other minority groups on campus.

Although the “n-word” on the university sign was directed at black students, there are many others who want to fight racism on campus. A mass assembly of members from BUS, Kent State NAACP, PRIDE!Kent, SALSA, Undergraduate Student Senate and every other student group on campus, in conjunction with every unaffiliated student, should have shown a united front against all hatred at Kent State – no matter who it targets.

The recent vandalism at Kent State should not just offend BUS or other minorities on campus. Everyone should be outraged that safety, integrity and unity at Kent State have been assaulted in such a way.

It saddens us that race has to be an issue at Kent State, but we can’t deny there is an obvious lack of unity between races here.

Unfortunately, the campus vandalism is offensive but it represents the attitudes that silently exist at Kent State every day.

The battle for civil rights has not ended.

A new, subtle form of racism endures here. Let’s do our best to eradicate it forever.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.