In Alabama, 1963 was a year of confrontations and violence. Tomorrow, we remember not just four girls who were killed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963,, but others killed and injured in the Civil Rights Movement. This link shares the story of two boys, Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson, who were killed the same day.
The University where I work has been providing material for a living case study in racial relations and racism for many years. This year is the 50th anniversary of Governor George Wallace’s “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door,” when President Kennedy sent in the National Guard to allow black students to register for classes. Yet, 50 years later, there are still many unresolved issues of race on campus, which our administration and students often prefer to avoid. These are often difficult conversations and it’s easy for those who are White to not see the problem. However, in the five years I’ve been here there have been a number of incidents of racist graffiti or racial slurs yelled at pedestrians, in addition to less visible discrimination. It is clear to me, a White woman, that Black students (and faculty and staff) often have a very different, and much less welcoming, experience that those of us who are White. Socially, students still remain segregated by race in many contexts, including the Greek (fraternity and sorority) community.
The issue of racial discrimination in sororities is not a new issues here — I’ve had many discussions about this with students (Greek and non-Greek) in the last few years. However, this week some brave students have come forward to talk about the issue and the media, starting with the student newspaper (The Crimson White), has been covering the issue (even USA Today, the NY Times, and CNN). It’s easy to say that discrimination is wrong, but the students need support from the administration and other student, faculty, staff, and alumni to change these well-entrenched norms. Organizational change is hard and the systemic racism is entrenched, but I feel guardedly hopeful that this is the time that, finally, some changes can be made, thanks to the bravery of students, black and white, who are bringing this situation more fully into the public discourse.
This is an evolving story. Stay tuned to the media for more developments.
Here is the original story in the Crimson White: http://cw.ua.edu/2013/09/11/the-final-barrier-50-years-later-segregation-still-exists/
A great blog post by one of our students: http://thewiseguise.com/2013/09/everyone-thinks-im-a-racist-and-why-thats-ok-with-me/