I was reading a Time magazine article the other day about how racist attitudes are ingrained in people. I’d suggest that it’s an article we all should read here at The University of Mississippi. Why? This article addresses an issue that’s not only a problem on our campus, but an issue that’s a problem nationwide — really worldwide.
Tacit approval of racism and racist actions are harmful to the moral fabric of our society. Too many times we encounter racist actions behind closed doors and do not address them. Too many times we try to avoid labeling someone or something racist, out of fear of the repercussions. I understand that labeling a person “racist” is bold, and one must be certain before proclaiming such a condemning status.
However, I argue that we have arrived at a critical point in the history of our university. Do we continually proclaim that the vocal minority does not represent our entire university or do we take a long, deep stare into the mirror? We have real problems here at The University of Mississippi. I understand that other universities have their plights as well, but our problem is especially unique. It is one that is inherited from our troubled past. However, our tragic history does not remove responsibility from each of us to take proactive steps to address our problem.
A couple questions have been on my mind here lately, both of which troubled me greatly.
Why did those students feel like it was OK for them to use racial slurs here on our campus? Does our history and culture foster an atmosphere that exudes racism? The latter question will be difficult to answer as openly racist and discriminatory policies have been long off the books.
I titled this article “Tacit approval” for a very specific reason — in my opinion, tacit approval is what allows the racist undercurrents that lie beneath the vibrant, glamorous appearances to persist. Another reason that the underlying racist culture exists is because it does not affect the majority of the people here on campus. However, it affects African-Americans the most.
For example, after the “protest” Tuesday night, I had family from all over the country calling, texting, writing me Facebook messages, concerned about my well-being. For many of them, the preconceived notions about Ole Miss had been confirmed. I am certainly not saying that other students did not have concerned family members, but the “protest” reaction uniquely affected African-American students.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” It is time for many of us who have stood on the sidelines and tacitly approved of the moral injustices here on campus to step up to microphone and speak up. It is time for us to let go of the negative vestiges passed down from generation to generation and fully embrace our Creed. It is time for us to be who we say we are and not who we are when the cameras are around. Indeed, it is time for a change.
This reminds me of something Tony Robbins once said, “By changing nothing, nothing changes.” Until we truly reach deep down within ourselves and change the way we think about others and the culture here at Ole Miss, then I truly believe the negative connotation of this place will always precede the good of Ole Miss.
We are at The University of Mississippi at a very unique time. We have the opportunity to work together to change the culture and atmosphere here at the university and we also have the option of passing the task down to another generation of Ole Miss students.
Consider Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel’s wise words: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”
The choice is ours. It always has been.
Tim Abram is a junior public policy major from Horn Lake. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Abram.