Letter: MSU should respond to campus racism
By Samuel Granger
Granger is an English junior at MSU.
There's some deep irony in that Michigan State grapples with a racism controversy right around the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination — this time, a student with a social media trail filled with gratuitous use of the N-word and other brazenly racist taunts. MSU has responded with some lip-service email to students, stressing how deeply they care about racism but not detailing any specific actions on their part. When pressed for specific action, a spokeswoman had this to say:
“The university is aware of the recent social media posts connected to an MSU student. As a public institution, we do not get to control what every member of our community says.”
The publicizing of this student's vile racism has been followed by a chorus of calls for her expulsion. I wouldn't object to that; honestly, I just want to see some effort at accountability and doling out of disciplinary action on the part of the university, some sort of practical consequence to truly send the message that this will not be tolerated on our campus, something other than a blasé, "Well, people talk, nothing we can do about it."
This kind of bile is not directed at me or other white folks on campus. It's directed at black students and faculty, and creates a hostile environment for them and people of color in general who occupy this campus. It's rooted in denial of their humanity, and in the system of violent oppression holding them back since this country's inception.
Even if this student, aside from what she tweets, might truly not hurt a fly, that doesn't mean letting her racism go unpunished won't extend to racists whose hate might translate into violence against the targets of said hate.
There's a concept called the paradox of tolerance, basically meaning that if a society is tolerant without limit, views which are intolerant by their nature will "win out," and such a society will not be truly tolerant. That will happen if people continue to approach racism by condescendingly hushing people who speak out against it with, "You have to be respectful of opinions different than yours." This is not "an opinion different from mine."
This is garden-variety racism, of the sort that people will use to deflect and say, "That isn't me, so I'm not racist." This is the view that has long proliferated in our government and society, and has historically rendered people of color second-class citizens.
I don't have to tolerate it, and neither does MSU. Other universities have expelled students for espousing similarly racists sentiments, so MSU would be well within their rights in following suit. MSU, you say you stand firmly against racism and for an inclusive campus? Accompany your words with actions; then, maybe, people will believe you.