Staff Editorial: Students need to do more to combat racism

Social justice is a buzzword at Grinnell College. It is something that the administration boasts as a key value of the College experience. However, this value has not always been upheld by students, both historically and in present day. This week, The Scarlet & Black would like to shed light on how the continuing legacy of racism manifests in public spaces and events on campus.

Racism still occurs on campus because of students’ tacit acceptance of intolerant behavior. Before the end of the fall semester, someone drew a swastika and wrote an anti-Semitic phrase on a cup at a public event. In the past few years, white students yelled the n-word at the Kanye Gardner party, and a professor was racially harassed by students off campus on a weekend night. What is most concerning about these events is that they all have occurred in the presence of other Grinnell College students.

The incidents listed above are obviously egregious, but many acts of racism are less overt. In response to these events, students are reluctant to label such occurrences as racist and instead hide behind rhetoric of grey areas. Students must understand that spaces on campus are dominated by white students and that white students are not doing enough to make these spaces inclusive and accessible. It should not be hard to call out our peers and work towards making Grinnell College a truly inclusive community. It should be obvious to all students that racism continues to be a pressing problem on campus and that students have the obligation to make these spaces safe for students of color.

The S&B works to report on instances of racism, but we often face difficulty in covering these stories. The typical response to racism on campus from students is immediate anger, but after a few days, the anger subsides until another case of racism takes place and the cycle repeats. It is far too common that students and administrators who are involved or have a stake in the issue do not choose to cooperate and discuss the matter. This is concerning for many reasons, but it is especially so because one of our roles is to uphold institutional memory. We cannot fulfill this duty if people are unwilling to have conversations about racism on campus. If a racist incident occurs, reach out or submit an anonymous tip to be sure that these important discussions take place.

If Grinnell College were truly an institution of social justice, students would not sweep racism under the rug, but would instead address incidents fully and without hesitation. Students must hold themselves and their peers accountable to make spaces more inclusive and think about how others interpret the space they are in. Requests for increased inclusivity have not been met, and our student body needs to do better. Be aware of how your presence impacts others who have less privilege. Be aware of the music you play and attire you wear at parties. Acknowledge that there is a problem on campus, and make a conscious effort to change campus culture. Hold yourselves and your peers accountable. There are no excuses to let racism persist on our campus.