JeVon Bausby, The Black Bear – Author Lawrence Ross said that systemic racism on college campuses derives from what he says is one of the many foundations of the United States: white supremacy.
“When we talk about white supremacy being one of the foundations of this country, what we’re talking about is the made up science that is designed to allow Europeans to strip non-Europeans of their humanity,” Ross said in a speech on Nov. 2 in the Plaster Student Union Theater.
“Under white supremacy, whites are the default normal and blacks and other non-whites are always the outsiders of it,” Ross said.
The Student Activities Council, the InterFraternity Council and the National Panhellenic Association invited Ross to speak about race relations and building a diverse coalition to end bias and discrimination on college campuses.
Samantha Siebert, president of SAC, believes it was a great idea to bring the issue of race relations to MSU in an attempt to make it a more welcoming place.
“I think it’s a great idea, because I know Missouri State had a problem a couple of years ago during homecoming,” Siebert said. “Also, last year we had protests regarding administration so obviously we have problems with racial climates on our campus.”
Students were able to engage in a dialogue to evaluate current events that affected race relations.
Those current events, as explained in Ross’s latest book, “Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses,” stem from the openly offensive parties held by IFC and Panhellenic fraternities and sororities where they would dress up and change their image to look like another race.
One of Ross’ earlier publications, “The Divine Nine,” spoke on some of the same issues concerning the history of African-American fraternities and sororities, which he brought up during the speech to tie the idea of systemic racism back to the events that take place on college campuses.
Ross said that racism can be individual but can also be institutional. He said he feels Americans do a good job of avoiding individual racism and generally get along with one another, but the case is not the same for institutional racism.
“Institutionally, we’re terrible,” Ross said. “We never want to deal with institutional racism, and when we don’t deal with it the idea of people of color being inferior to whites becomes more visible.”
Britt Spears, graduate assistant for the programming office of student engagement, shares the same thought in regards to African-Americans feeling less powerful on college campuses.
She related her experience to homecoming week and the disadvantages she said black Greek organizations have.
“Most Missouri State students know that homecoming is a white FSL dominated area,” Spears said. “A lot of the members of black Greek organizations do not feel homecoming is a place for them.”
When writing the book “Blackballed,” Ross said he was taken aback by the many racial incidents on college campuses. The incidents seemed to be occurring on a weekly basis, which led to students being upset with their races being insulted, he said.
According to Ross, all of the incidents showed that students of color do not belong on college campuses. He said the particular spaces in regard to Greek life and other organizations that an institution offers are, in essence, hostile to students of color.
“This all ties back to the idea of white supremacy being one of the many foundations of this country,” Ross said.
The progress of diversity and inclusion on college campuses seemed to be one of the most significant things in efforts to steer this situation in the right direction, he said.
Ross talked about the importance of inclusion creating a better understanding between different races.
Ross ended with a personal statement to leave the audience with a lesson that would benefit their way of thinking about race relations.
“Stop doing racist things, sometimes it’s that simple,” Ross said. “You’re able to identify those things very quickly.”