Kent State’s dirty little secret ignored

Jonathan D. Septer

Last week, Nebraska fought to keep State Trooper Robert Henderson, 50, from his job because of his affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights Party, two groups supporting white supremacy.

Henderson joined these groups when his wife “divorced him for a minority,” according to His record shows no instance of “bias or misconduct against minorities,” but Henderson was relieved of duty when his superiors discovered his ties to these organizations after angry messages from the trooper were found posted on the Knights Party Web site.

But Henderson will be back to work next week.

Henderson did not write these messages from work. He wrote them from the privacy of his own home. His right to free speech allows him to participate in any organization or club he chooses, and, as a state employee, his rights are protected vigilantly. Henderson “was never cited on the job for racial profiling or other racist activities,” according to the article.

That doesn’t mean everyone’s happy about him coming back.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning “(does not) want the agency destroyed by a racist like Bob Henderson.” Bruning is spearheading the movement to keep Henderson off the force.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? The state wants Henderson out, but his superiors never bothered to notice – or cite him for – any behavior that would require his firing. Racism’s obscene prevalence in this society is dismissed and covered up. Take a look around you.

No one is talking about last semester’s events involving Chi Omega and a racially charged award given at one of its events. It was swept nicely under the rug of racial tension. And that tension is all around you.

A young woman working for Dining Services here at Kent State told me this story: She spends her days at work receiving food service wages and putting up with a surprising amount of abuse. Members of a particular fraternity plague her when they frequent her place of employment. She describes them as rude and intentionally mean, and she cringes when she tells me they often refer to her with racially derogatory terms.

I grew up surrounded by hate. We all did. And we all know hate is a living, breathing entity. You can kill it, or you can feed it. For the love of all you hold holy, look around you. We live in a society that breeds discontent and malice, and we are unwittingly aiding in the spread.

Racism is an ugly, vicious thing, and those who perpetuate it in any form are spineless and cruel. People are people. Why is that so hard to understand? College is supposed to be a place of open-mindedness and learning, but I’ve frequented Kent State since 1996, and racism on campus is worse now than it was then. And it’s our fault. We all had a hand in it.

Worse yet, we covered it up. We labeled it with politically correct names such as African-American, Latino-American, and Asian-American, but we still speak these words with the same vehemence as derogatory terms that can’t be repeated here. A change in words does not a change in attitude make.

Unless you are like me, your time at college will be short. Use it to take steps forward.

Jonathan D. Septer is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].