In response to recent comments posted on the social messaging app Yik Yak, students and faculty gathered again Tuesday outside of Waterfield Library in one of several scheduled events targeted at creating a campus-wide discussion on racism.
Following Sept. 4’s peaceful protest against the shooting of Michael Brown, anonymous posters from around Murray took to Yik Yak posting racist comments regarding the gathering, some suggesting possible violent retaliation.
In addition to signs regarding the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., newly-made signs with “stop racism” and “end racism” written on them were held by protesters Tuesday.
Arlene Johnson, senior from Sikeston, Mo., said she was shocked by some of the comments written after the first protest.
Johnson made headlines as a freshman in 2010 when she spoke out against one of her professors, Mark Wattier.
According to Johnson, Wattier said that her tardiness to a class compared to the actions of slaves.
“And (Wattier) said the slaves never showed up on time, so their owners often lashed them for it,” Johnson told the Murray Ledger & Times in 2010.
“It just hurts so bad to see that this still exists,” she said.
Kesia Casey, junior from Hartford, Ky., like Johnson, attended both protests. She said no one should ever feel comfortable posting comments such as those on Yik Yak, even if they’re anonymous.
“A lot of people think the solution to this problem is to keep quiet and it will go away,” Cacey said. “The solution, I believe, is to talk about it and become comfortable talking about it because it’s not going away.”
A number of events are being planned to do just that – create rhetoric between students, faculty, staff and the administration about racism on campus.
These events include a forum about racism and the state of black students on campus presented by The Black Student Council, activities during International Education Week and a “teach-in” organized by select faculty.
David Pizzo, associate professor of Humanities and Fine Arts, attended the rally this week and said that while the protest isn’t going to make an immediate impact, it is key to generating momentum and to keep the discussion on racism going.
“We don’t think we’re going to end racism by holding signs,” Pizzo said. “But people are noticing and stopping. One thing I can promise you is if people don’t do this, it’s just going to disappear.”
Since the initial posts on Yik Yak, Murray State administration has responded by forwarding screenshots of the offending posts to the University attorney, director of Equal Opportunity and the University chief of police.
SG Carthell, director of Multicultural Affairs, said his office is focused on finding out where “gaps” with tolerance and acceptance are at Murray State.
He said the comments on Yik Yak aren’t necessarily caused by a gap in institution policies or how the University is run, but caused by the environments that people come from and are exposed to.
“Some of it comes from misinformation, some of it comes from just direct negative influences and biases,” Carthell said.
He said administration, including himself, has an obligation to be seen at these types of protests and events on campus.
“We have a responsibility to be here to show that, number one, (students) know that they’re safe, but two, that they know we’re hearing them and we listen to them,” Carthell said.
Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer