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Racism and the College Campus

Is this hot-button issue still an issue in 2011?

Contributing Writer

Published: Sunday, March 6, 2011

Updated: Sunday, March 6, 2011 22:03

When Leena Salih first enrolled in George Mason University, many people would always ask her to take off her hijab and show her hair.

She would respond with a polite "no," and explain that the hijab is worn as a symbol of modesty and respect in her culture.

Salih is a Muslim sophomore integrative studies major, from Sudan. She believes that ignorance and racism still exists on college campuses.

Racism or discrimination against someone of a different race based on the belief that ones race is superior, has begun once again to rear its ugly head on college campuses around the country.

On Feb. 27, at the University of Missouri at Columbia, cotton balls were sprinkled outside of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center. African-American students were offended by the reference to picking cotton and slavery.

Shayna Bailey, a sophomore fashion merchandising major, says that although people believed racism would end after President Barack Obama's election in 2008, it did not.

"[Racism] isn't some old artifact from the past that was buried after Obama's election. It is still a problem that we as Americans face sadly even in our higher education institutions," Bailey said.

But, is it an issue at Howard University? Chris Coleman, a sophomore clinical laboratory science major, doesn't think so.

"I have never witnessed or heard about racism at Howard University," Coleman said. "In my opinion, everyone accepts the other races that go to school here, as well. If anything we are mostly struggling with the whole light skinned verse dark skinned prejudices rather than racism."

But Salih at a neighboring University witnessed a racist incident at her school that leads her to believe otherwise.

"There is a website called where college students post whatever they want," Salih said. "One time a white student at my school posted ‘don't you hate it when black people are at Ike's Diner?'"

Ike's Diner is a place where George Mason students go to eat and socialize.

"After the post, other white students responded saying ‘yes I hate those annoying niggers,'" said Salih.

According to Salih no one was reprimanded for posting the racist statements.

Abena Dakwahene, a Ghanian American student who also attends GMU explained that besides the racist incidents, mostly every clique is separated by race, nationality or religion despite the school's diversity.

"There is a definite division between the races here. Most groups of friends are classified by white, black, Pakistanis, Arabs, Hispanic or African. It really upsets me." Dakwahene said.

The University of Maryland College Park is also a diverse college in the area, but it has encountered racist incidents in its past as well.

In 2007, a noose was found hanging outside from a tree on the College Park campus. Campus Police investigated the crime but unfortunately no suspect was found.

Lance Billington, an African-American junior public relations major believes the racist incidents have declined at his school since 2007 but there are still racist acts happening in present day.

"Just last night someone drew swastikas on the white boards outside of the dorm rooms," Billington said. "It was immediately reported to the police. The university has a very strict zero tolerance for these incidents. It is being investigated now."

Racism continues to be a relevant issue on college campuses through the Internet and anonymous acts.

"Racism is done in the dark now; behind closed doors, people are afraid of the consequences," Bailey said. "One day hopefully it can stop or at least be so rare that it feels as though it is over but that would take hard work and I don't know how many people are still up for the challenge."

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