Recently, I posted a piece about the #blacklivesmatter Rally that I attended at the Rock (Center of Campus) at the University of Miami on Wednesday, December 3rd. I touted its importance, excellent organization and the pride I felt for the students who led and participated in it, many whom I taught. There is not one iota of change in my mind about this. I offer the same praise for them today that I offered previously. However, subsequent to the event, something shameful happened. Via YikYak (http://www.themiamihurricane.com/2014/09/17/yik-yak-away/) some individuals fromUM expressed racist vitriol towards the students for holding the protests. I have shared some screen shots below of some of the comments. To make matters worse, although a heartfelt letter was shared with the students on campus from its President, Dr. Donna Shalala, particularly aimed at praising the organizers and participants of the event, there was no condemnation, in clear, specific terms of the commentary directed towards the students. How is that possible?
“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.”
“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.”
― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
YIK YAK Comments
YIK YAK Comments
The rationale for the lack of overt, clear condemnation of the words of those who wrote vicious comments regarding the students, faculty, administration and visitors in attendance at the Rally was due to respect for freedom of speech. Surely, the importance of freedom of speech is understood as a core aspect of American society. However, as one who has served in academia for many years of my life, there is no question that the academic environment is usually such that individuals are mindful of spewing racist hatred at any time, and particularly after lawful, peaceful and compelling protests.
In this case the issue pertains to Black students who led a peaceful Rally on campus to oppose atrocities, namely the killing of Black men and women by the police, without Grand Jury indictment in two of the most recent cases. There should have been written admonishment, by University Administration, directly addressing the verbal, racist, culturally incompetent comments that were spewed on social media subsequent to the event. Participants in the predominantly Black rally being referred to as “coons” and other unsavory terms/statements is unacceptable by any standard. At the very least, the university should make it clear, in no uncertain terms that such communication is deeply frowned upon at all levels of the institution and absolutely inappropriate, within the context of understanding that free speech is permissible. The use of such racial slurs are indicative of a climate, of cultural incompetency at the highest level.
The fact of the matter is that the tuition and fees to attend the University of Miami are $44,350 (http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/search?name=University+of+Miami&location=), according to the U.S. News and World Report who has ranked the school at the same level as the University of Florida, a State school, with a tuition of $6,613 for in-state students and $28,591 for out of state students. Clearly, tuition at the University of Florida is strikingly less than that of UM. Therefore, students have options for an equitable education, in the state of Florida, as both schools are ranked #48 in the nation, per U.S. News Best College rankings, and chose to attend UM as paying “customers”/students where they expect to achieve higher education, within the context of academic freedom, and hopefully with expectations of severe criticism, from administration, of racial hatred directed toward them by fellow classmates or anyone else affiliated with the University. Also, the U is the only university in the state of Florida that has "Free Speech Zones” as referred to in my prior post about the #blacklivesmatter Rally, another tangentially related concern (http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2014/12/praise-for-hands-up-rally-for-justice.html). Therefore, it seems befitting that within the context of the University President’s praise for the students, who held a Peaceful rally on campus, chastisement of those individuals who made horrendous comments about the Black students is in order post haste.
In closing, as the focus of this blog is primarily about natural hair, I will be remiss if I fail to mention the natural presence of the beautiful Black students on campus on that day. Many of them adorned natural locks, braids, afros and freestyle tresses, which Natural Is Cool Enough associates with consciousness by being in touch with one's natural roots. There were no “coons” to be found on campus, at the Rally, as these descendants of African Kings and Queens live in a land in which they are often misunderstood and despised. They are willing to spend substantial dollars or welcome well-deserved scholarships to attend and acquire information from presumably intelligent people and to be in the midst of their fellow students of all races to learn and grow together. Under no circumstances should they be subjected to unabated, vicious, racist, remarks subsequent to their lawful, peaceful protest on their campus, as a result of ignorance, hatred and cultural incompetence. Such behavior by those who wrote such heinous words on social media must know that their ignorance is showing, which is a direct reflection of the institution that is supposed to be providing them with higher learning. It is particularly disturbing when university administration has not let all know that the University is embarrassed and ashamed of such hurtful words. If the U is not, ashamed and embarrassed by those hurtful words, hurled at the Black students, and others in attendance at the rally, after their lawful, peaceful, well-organized and well-attended protest, therein lies the egregious problem. The reality is that the comments made were culturally incompetent, filled with disdain, racist and hurtful and no student deserved to experience this. Natural Is Cool Enough salutes the students and all others who organized and participated in the #blacklivesmatter rally which was an important and historic event. Painful words have not diminished the strength, intentions and integrity of the event.