Leilani Bartlett, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale business student recently released a heart filled video expressing her concerns after racist encounters from white Donald Trump supporters. In this video she explains her observations of racist street writings and remarks on several buildings and walkways on SIU’s campus.
In addition to the campus vandalism, she sated that those same white students hosted discussions expressing their concerns and beliefs about the African American students on campus. These discussions allowed white students to blame the African American students for society problems and express hopeful wishes of African Americans returning back to Africa.
Racism at SIUC. I'm at my residence hall and all I hear is TRUMP 2016. The same group of kids in a fraternity ( ATO)…
As the video goes on, Leilani expresses her beliefs and agrees with the amendment of people having the right to express their opinions, but without hurting and demeaning others.
Bartlett identified the supporters as a couple members from Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, levied racial epithets, and hurtful language during two open Trump forum meetings in her dormitory.
“So you are in these letters that represent your fraternity, and you are saying these racial slurs, and have admitted to doing racially insensitive things on campus? It’s only up for me to assume that your whole fraternity supports this,” Bartlett explained.
However, concerning the accusations, Wynn Smiley, CEO of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, shared that allegations were only brought up in connection to a couple members of the group, and not the chapter as a whole.
“It has nothing to do with the chapter,” he shared. “It’s about individual students within the chapter.”
He further deemed the conversation between the students as a political debate, not a discussion about race.
“We do not believe the ATOs involved used any racial slurs. Such language and conduct is counter to what ATO stands for,” he said. “Our investigation continues and both chapter and national fraternity officials are working with SIU officials in helping resolve the tensions Wednesday’s discussion produced.”
Brad Colwell, interim SIU Carbondale chancellor, released a statement addressing the need for the university to have a critically important discussion about race.
“This is a conversation that is happening on campuses across the country, because the issues we face are not isolated to SIU,” he said. “We must all be concerned when we have members of our campus community who indicate that they do not feel welcome.”
He also added this statement to clarify the university’s intentions to continue their investigations with consideration toward the privacy of those involved.
“You should not assume that silence is inaction, but that we are moving as quickly as possible based on the verifiable information we are able to gather, assess and respond to appropriately,” he said. “We must be measured, and we must be fair.”
As an African America male, I feel the pain of this young student. Also, as an alumnus of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, I have also experienced some racism from the local white community. In 2011, I was a sophomore in college when a police officer pulled me over and claimed it was against the law to have air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirror. He didn’t give me a ticket but he referred to me as“Boy” throughout the process. “Boy” is a term that white men used to belittle African Americans.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and according to our constitution we all have the freedom of speech. Demeaning someone’s culture and appearance just because they are different is unacceptable. “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you”- this statement is in accurate because there are words such as “Nigger”, “Hoe” “Fag” that plays a huge role in the self-esteem of people. Words are more powerful than we think.