Following two blackface incidents involving OU, a press conference, a march and numerous meetings, public talks and even a brief appearance on SNL, one reaction should give Normanites and the OU community hope: the response by students on campus.
The impact of student leadership in changing systemic racism on campus was none more apparent than during the Better Together March last Thursday, when thousands of students walked silently across campus, delivered a letter to President Jim Gallogly's office, and concluded the event with chants, songs and speeches on the steps of the memorial union.
March organizers pointed out that it was up to the students to shoulder the burden of changing OU's culture -- make no mistake, they have specific demands of the OU administration, which they articulated in the letter and which include calling for a zero-tolerance policy toward hate speech in student and faculty codes of conduct; a four year curriculum dedicated to educating students, faculty and staff on social and cultural issues; an increase in multicultural faculty and staff, particularly in higher administration and on the board of regents; and additional financial assistance for multicultural students and programs.
But students made it clear they considered administrative changes to be only part of the solution, and they're correct.
Attending college is difficult enough for students, who often balance a heavy class load with work and commitments with on campus organizations while figuring out who they are and what career they want to pursue. It doesn't seem fair to throw in cultural issues that have permeated our society for centuries. But as students made clear on Thursday, and throughout the past few weeks, they understand OU reflects what's happening in the rest of the country. To change the university, they have to learn from and change each other. The racism exhibited by the two blackface incidents can only be combated by education.
"There is systematic racism in this country, and in order to combat that, we need to bring in more education," OU student Muneeb Ata said on Thursday. "We don't want people to hide their racism, we want to eradicate it, and that comes with understanding."
It's clear that students are ready, willing and able to take the lead. We look forward to following them to a brighter, more diverse, and more equitable future.