Commentary: American University incident shows racism goes to college

Photo by Lauren Burke/NNPA

Commentary: American University incident shows racism goes to college
May 24
00:05 2017

By James B. Ewers Jr.

It appears that racism has no boundaries. It rears its distasteful head in too many places and spaces that we hold dear to us.

Higher education is not immune from this seemingly everyday occurrence. Colleges and universities where scholars reside are now arguably training grounds for future racists.

Recently, American University in Washington, D.C., made national news for all the wrong reasons. Having racist behavior on your college campus places you in an unenviable position. Instead of touting your research, you are apologizing for inappropriate conduct.

American University student Taylor Dumpson ran for president of the student government association. She won. She is African-American and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Ms. Dumpson received cheers for her victory and jeers from some because she is African-American. Bananas were found dangling from nooses with a sign with the letters AKA on campus on May 1. Mean spirited and hate-filled are adequate words to describe what happened at American University in Washington, D.C.

Ms.Dumpson gave a statement shortly after the banana noose incident and quoted Frederick Douglass. Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Frederick Douglass was right then and he is right now in 2017. White privilege, a term coined years ago, is the mantra and calling card for those who believe and foster this false superiority.

In Ms. Dumpson’s statement, she referred to the American University Student Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct has a section in it that talks about identity-motivated bias. Both Ms. Dumpson and members of the AKA chapter there are victims of identity-motivated bias.

Students who have good hearts have evil sitting right next to them in their classes. Evil smiles at you and will even shake hands with you. The O’Jays would say they’re smiling in your face. Yet these folks are backstabbers.

What happened at American University, while disturbing, is not surprising because racism is on call 24 hours a day. It doesn’t rest and moves around so it is hard to catch it.

However, the sad truth is that the folks who committed these crimes were probably racists before they ever came onto the AU campus.

I am a parent and a grandparent and what you say around the dinner table matters. What you say about your neighbors who don’t look like you matters.

When we see images of people of color on television in marginalized positions, we believe that stereotype about the entire group of people.

Our responsibility as good citizens is to offer a counter view. If we say nothing and do nothing, change will not occur. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing.”

I applaud Ms. Taylor Dumpson for being a pioneer at American University in Washington DC. She will be a catalyst for change and for good at AU.

If you are a student at American University, report the perpetrators of this crime. Turn them into the authorities. Dr. King said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

About Author

WS Chronicle

WS Chronicle

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors