By Riley Dauber
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, Washington College’s Black Student Union posted a moving statement on the recent occurences on campus that specifically targeted Black students.
According to BSU secretary junior Hailey Sutton, the club members decided to release the statement after hearing from many students that “racial bias incidents” occurred.
“It seemed to be happening to all minorities, freshmen to seniors included. We felt after hearing the third or fourth one that it was time to address what the college was not addressing. It was time to make sure that these incidents were not going to be brushed away again,” she said.
The Instagram post was signed by the club, and an email from BSU president senior Mariama Keita with the same message was sent to students and staff.
“The reason why I shared [the message] on social media is because of the past statements that we had shared on social media, but then not everyone checks their emails too. So just making sure that it’s from our account…that it’s coming from us, no other sources,” Keita said.
The message, which is addressed to the “Washington College Community,” details recent, racist incidents that have happened on campus. One incident, where “a group of Black students were harassed,” took place by the campus green. The other two incidents, where “a Black student was recorded” and “a person in a White truck yelled a racial slur at a Black student,” took place by the Washington College crosswalk, according to the statement.
The crosswalk is the location for many such incidents. Anonymous drivers unfortunately take the opportunity to yell out insults or catcall students.
While many students have complained about the crosswalk, the recent incidents involving racial slurs and acts that targeted Black students led to BSU releasing the aforementioned statement.
“The story keeps repeating itself. We are sharing our plight, stories, and experiences to showcase the reality of being a marginalized student in our community,” the members of BSU said in the statement.
The last paragraph of the statement highlighted resources on campus, including the BSU office and the Intercultural Affairs Center, located on the first floor of Minta Martin Hall.
The statement sparked conversations on campus, with many professors and club leaders responding and showing their support for both BSU and the Black community on campus.
“I feel great that so many people responded to the email in the way they did,” Sutton said. “It shows the respect that they have for us not only as a club, but as students on this campus. But words are one thing; actions and following through are another.”
Keita hopes the message will lead to action instead of just discussion.
“There has been a lot of support, but what I really do want is tangible action items. Not just support when statements come around, [but] support when there’s events, coming out, and talking support when we’re not in the room, just being supportive all across the border,” she said.
It is imperative that action is taken in response to these racist incidents. A social media post lasts forever, reminding students of what has occurred on campus; but simply reposting the message is not enough. It may spread awareness of the problem, but moving forward, WC students, faculty, and alumni need to do their part in solving the issue.
“I know that [Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion and Senior Equity Officer] Dr. Alisha Knight is working on more diversity initiatives regarding academics, but it shouldn’t take us speaking out for people to take the initiative,” Keita said.
As for Sutton, she suggests that students look out for each other and show their support for the community.
“Simply reaching out to each other and making sure everyone feels safe is something we all can do. Walking together at night and not leaving anyone behind is something we all need to get in the habit of doing. We are a community, so it is time we start acting like one,” she said.
Fortunately, BSU was able to use their platform on both social media and email to share the statement, but the recognition of the issue must continue. BSU fights for change on campus, and it is necessary that other students follow suit by attending club events and speaking up in class and senate meetings when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
“BSU has an open door policy. A lot of students come to us first when incidents like this happen. We have a rapport with the groups of minorities on this campus. When incidents like this happen, we try to be proactive, but inform our members of what resources to use if another incident like the ones in the past happens again,” Sutton said.
Photo courtesy of Mariama Keita
Photo Caption: Black Student Union president Mariama Keita helped craft a statement about the recent racist incidents at WC, with the hopes of making changes on campus.