An unidentified white man was arrested last night at the University of Michigan after his shouts of “F**k you, n****s!” ignited a fight with students protesting on-campus incidents of racism.
Theater professor Anita Gonzalez, who heads the Global Theatre and Ethnic Drama minor at U.M., posted on a video of the incident on Facebook, along with a racist Snapchat a white student had posted, as evidence of the incidents of bigotry with which black students have had to contend.
150 students of all races had marched to the Student Union for a meeting with University President Mark Schlissel. According to the MichiganLive blog, recent racist incidents had included slurs graffitied on campus walls. It is a tragic irony that the protest, organized by Students4Justice, the Black Student Union, and the local NAACP chapter, devolved into yet another instance of bigotry. Michigan posted photos of the protest and the altercation.
Photos: Matt Weigand
Though campus and Ann Arbor police arrested the fight’s instigator, they have not yet released his name.
After the altercation, the protestors continued marching up to President Schlissel’s home to demand he take more decisive action on campus racism and show more sensitivity to the students who suffer its consequences.
Tyler Washington, one of the event’s organizers, told Michigan Live:
‘I understood that things were going to happen, but the fact that two things happened back-to-back and the first thing the president did was give a tweet, not to the African American community, but to his followers, what is that going to do for the community?’
President Schlissel’s response came across as a little defensive:
‘Racist comments and this kind of verbal violence and vandalism – there’s nobody who thinks this belongs here…I apologize if you haven’t heard from me loudly enough or often enough – I don’t know what you expect to hear. We are trying to catch the people doing this and tell them this doesn’t belong here, while protecting the students here.’
Clearly some students think that racism belongs at U.M., or they wouldn’t be perpetrating it. Rather than saying, “I don’t know what you expect to hear,” Schlissel might consider directly addressing the pain students feel at having to face racism’s ugliness on campus, and hearing their ideas on how best to move forward.
What do you think?
Lucia Brawley is a Harvard- and Yale-educated writer, producer, actor, and political organizer. She runs the progressive political Facebook group Consenting to Lead. To learn more, please go to luciabrawley.com.