The (Un)Suprising Racism at Elite Universities
By Morgan Brown
“Seriously what is up with the onslaught of black people invading UChicago? My first year there were barely any on campus and now they’re infiltration…Now I’m not usually racist but they need to stop being so f***ing LOUD. If I wanted to be surrounded by a cacophony of vernacular I would’ve taken the Red Line down to 95th.”
“I think all of the people protesting for a trauma center are stupid. Maybe if all you guys on the South Side stopped shooting each other we wouldn’t need one.”
“I once knew a black girl named Placenta. Why are your names so odd?”
These are just 3 of the hundreds (last I heard there were about 400) of posts that makes up the Politically Incorrect Maroon Confessions. This page (formerly called Politically Incorrect UChicago Confessions) quickly became a one-stop shop for hate speech. You’ll find it all here, from racism to rape apologists. This page allows for UChicago students to submit their “politically incorrect” opinions and moderators will anonymously post them. It is a platform for people to allow their inner prejudiced thoughts to live free.
This is just a few months after the University of Chicago was under fire for having a police force that racially profiles. Racist incidents, such as these, blight just about all of America’s elite institutions. Yale has incidents of black face, Harvard racially profiles students, and just about every institution deals with some racially themed frat party. But here’s the thing, if you speak to students of color on these campuses, they are never surprised. So what is it about the culture of these institutions that implicitly encourages this behavior?
For one, all of these institutions have a history of foundational, systematic racism. At the University of Chicago that includes a history of purposely segregating itself from the surrounding black communities through the use of restrictive covenants. In the present day, the University’s police force creates a metaphorical bubble around campus, which continues and reinforces this separation. At an institution that is overwhelmingly white, the distinction between who belongs and who doesn’t quickly becomes racial.
And even when students of color are recognized as part of the university community, far too often we are made to feel like tokens. You will see pictures of students of color on all the brochures, the university will host multi-cultural days for prospective students, and the university will fund heritage weeks. On the surface this is supposed to make all students feel welcomed; however, when racial incidents are not dealt with seriously, when students face discrimination and profiling from their own universities, and when administrators turn a blind eye to the racist behaviors of their students, it becomes quite clear that students of color are not protected. With that comes the isolating feeling of knowing that your institution, in many ways, sees you as a means to an end.
And perhaps more importantly, white students understand that their racist ideology will not be questioned. It baffles me that at institutions that encourage such rigorous intellectual thought, privileges (racial and otherwise) go unchecked and students just accept the status quo. Students, who sit for hours and argue the implications of Kant, willfully accept stereotypes and prejudiced thinking. Suddenly racial profiling is okay because “black people just commit more crimes”, students who take offense to discriminatory behavior are just “over-sensitive”, and hate speech is supposed to be tolerated because of the first amendment.
These attitudes, for the most part, go unchallenged, and students leave these places just as ignorant as when they came in.