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The Black Student Alliance (BSA), along with other student groups, partnered together and held a protest on the steps of the campus’s central building, Mary Graydon Center. Consisting of 200 people, the protest was done to capture exposure of racism against minorities on campus. Several students, such as myself, were among the crowd who attended the protest. The crowd also consisted of different students from neighboring schools, such as George Washington University, successfully bringing together individuals from various parts of DC to evoke the message of anti-racism.
German Fig, activist within the protest, explained how the student group was motivated to protest after the head of the school failed to address racial issues for months. “Last semester [spring 2015] there was a girl who was called [racial slur], and they didn’t do anything about it. They still haven’t suspended the guy who called her it or even addressed her yet,” he explained.
After two African American female students were discriminated against by white male students who threw bananas into their dorm room, the Black Student Alliance decided to take major precautions against the university and call out the discriminatory atmosphere. It is believed that the banana was meant to imply the common stereotype that relates African Americans to apes (known for primarily consuming bananas).
This stereotype imposes the negative idea that African Americans share qualities in appearance and behavior with apes, such as big facial features, untamed and undisciplined behavior, and aggressive and violent mannerisms. Following the stereotypical gesture involving the bananas, a student drew images of male genitals on the dorm room whiteboard of another African American student. German Fig emphasized, “They threw bananas at one girl and put bananas outside of another girl’s room. WE have only heard from the other one.”
Among the two girls who were discriminated against, freshman, Neah Gray, expressed her views during the protest. Gray established that, as American University students, African Americans should not be facing racial discrimination. She elaborated that she is fed up with the damaging experiences, emphasizing this through distressed cries.
Explained during the protest that during her time at AU, she experienced “a whole bunch of microaggressions, and constantly trying every single day trying to tell these [white people] that I belong here just as much as you do.” Students within the protest requested that the student offenders who threw the bananas at the girls’ be suspended.
In addition to these specific racial incidents that occurred in September, members of the Black Student Alliance protest requested for more attention to be paid to the reoccurring microaggressions. They likewise requested that the school employ more facility members of color in order to ensure that African American students had role models on campus.
Over the past several semesters at AU, African American students have faced different forms of racial discrimination. Last semester, on the app called Yik Yak, students constantly wrote messages promoting hate against black students. In other circumstances, black students have also had the n-word written on their doors, as well as being told to “go back to Africa.” [German Fig] explained how “there are other incidents that have led to this, and I don’t think it’s gonna get better.”
Following the protest, AU’s president, Cornelius Kerwin released a statement explaining the racist incidents on campus. [President Kerwin] explained that, “We will confront the racist expressions with forceful condemnation and respond to discrimination with every tool at our disposal.” It is yet to be released whether the two students who sparked the racial incidents were suspended or expelled as requested. The heads of AU have sent out statements that they will be making arrangements to confront these issues. Still, it is currently unknown on what exact steps are being taken to create safer areas for students of all races.
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