In the wake of continued police violence, racial and cultural discrimination and acts of hatred in the United States, schools across the country have sought to create a more inclusive culture on campus.
Colorado State University prides itself on its values of civic responsibility, freedom of expression, inclusiveness and diversity. These ideals fuel the university-hosted Diversity Symposium every September in the Student Center.
After an incident in one of the residence halls, when the symbol of a noose was publicly displayed, the university felt compelled to host a discussion on the issue. The audience was packed for the resulting event: Symbols and History of Lynching in America.
Several presentations, a screening of the film “An Outrage” and discussions from the audience showed that diversity in our society has yet to be fully respected and understood, despite an extensive history of struggle against injustice.
The actual number of lynchings in the United States, which includes the hanging and burning of black bodies, totaled around 5,000 by 1968, said Colorado State University professor Jessica Jackson.
“Racism still exists. We must recognize this despite how uncomfortable it may be for some, and it must be dismantled by those in positions of privilege and power,” said the director of the Black/African American Cultural Center at Colorado State University, Bridgette Johnson.
“Symbols of supremacy are all around us . . . In the 21st century, the symbolic and real lynching of dark bodies is a daily occurrence,” said professor of ethnic studies Joon Kim.
This has “elevated [these] images as something we become accustomed to,” said Benjamin Withers, dean of the Colorado State University’s College of Liberal Arts.
We must “see [acts of discrimination] as reminders to remain vigilant against the hatred we see today,” said one of the directors of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival.
The students volunteered to share their thoughts on stage; they sense that communication of this issue was essential to the growth of their university and community.
Janae, pictured on the furthest left, roused the audience to loud cheers, as she criticized those who want to “be a voice for the voiceless,” to which she responded: “Pass the mic.”
“What each person does and how each person relates to others is critical,” another panelist said. “However, we also need to recognize the institutional and structural factors that contribute to a culture of bias and a system of disadvantages.”
“It is important that we find ways of supporting each other in ways that will create opportunities for dialogue and conversation,” said Withers when asked how to address modern discrimination.
Kim said society would “require a paradigm shift” to address such issues.
While the United States society has grown its ability to accept cultural and racial diversity, it still requires those of different descents to hide for fear of verbal and physical violence. Uncomfortable conversations such as these could be the catalyst for change on campuses across the country.