November 30, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 41°F

ColumnsInto Identity

Addressing a community with racism and cultural bias

“Eleven students who dressed up in Ku Klux Klan costumes for Halloween were suspended last week at Ithaca college in New York.

The administration charged the students with mental abuse and harassment and inciting others to violate the code of conduct.”

This was published in a Georgetown University paper, The Hoya, on Nov. 16, 1979. The Albany Student Press published Nov. 9, detailing the incident, “which involved wearing robes and marching a black-faced student with a noose around his neck,” and the protest that followed after all the students involved weren’t expelled for the mental terror they inflicted upon the campus.

So why address this 1979 incident?

On Oct. 15, the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity made up of Ithaca College students plans a party that has racist and classist implications located within its mandatory dress code. It calls for students to dress like thugs, a coded way of saying black. A coded way of saying the N-word. The fraternity does not respond with an apology, but rather states it’s not racist and cancels/reschedules the party. The college responds within a few hours.

On Oct. 8, the college has the Blue Sky Reimagining Kick-Off event, in which a white male alumnus and donor, Christopher Burch, is allowed to refer to Tatiana Sy, an alumna of color, as a “savage” repeatedly. The college takes four days to respond.

So why address this 1979 incident?

It is apparent that there is terror in 10 Klan members dragging around a white student in slave garb and black face by the noose around his neck. We agree on this. The white students in 1979 legitimized their actions by saying there was a Jewish student involved and therefore it was not racist. People would not accept that argument today, so why buy current excuses that refuse guilt and deny the existence of racism?

There is a culture of fear here at Ithaca College. This culture is often dodged by the college with public relations tactics and the hushing of black and brown voices.

In moments when the actions of individuals, groups or institutions are racist, they need to be acknowledged and the person or people involved need to be held accountable. I am disappointed by the campus climate of Ithaca College, a microcosm of the world’s climate as a whole, but the instances listed above are not isolated incidents, and they indicate there is a greater need for a change of consciousness at this college and far beyond the boundaries of academia.