Let’s start with the obvious — racism is bad. Always. In every instance.
The recent acts by professors at OU that spurred the most recent protests by minority students on campus — use of the n-word in the classroom— were likely not done with malice or the intent to be racist, but in the end if a group feels like they are racist statements, the words have the same effect. Everyone needs to be more mindful of the words they use.
This leads us to a letter to the editor published in Tuesday’s Transcript. Many readers have expressed anger and disbelief we would chose to print such words. It is true that we are not obligated to print every letter we receive, and some letters have been flatly rejected. We believed this letter helped prove the point that racist beliefs do still exist, even in our community which considers itself to be welcoming to all and above the fray. This may be true for many — or possibly even the majority of — people, but sadly these racist views are still out there.
Just because a letter to the editor is published on our editorial pages, it by no means indicates we agree with what is stated. Often times it is quite the opposite, as in this case. The above-mentioned letter has sparked many conversations, and that is the goal of an editorial page. To share opposing views and be a forum for discussion. Mission accomplished.
Back to the matter that prompted this conversation.
It is always refreshing to see students take action to prompt change. That is what college campuses are for — students learning to express themselves. While we might not agree with these students — members of BERT, the Black Emergency Response Team — we appreciate their passion. The sit-in showed they are serious about their demands.
To call for the resignation of Provost Kyle Harper in reality was an unrealistic demand. The group likely knew this going in, but they put it on record that they were not happy with what he has and has not done.
The students did get to meet with interim President Joseph Harroz and hopefully that session actually produces promised results, including a student advisory council to the provost’s office, better equity training for faculty, staff and students and creating a multicultural center. The multicultural center promise now is to “establish a committee.” We hope that committee comes up with a plan that in turn becomes a center.
BERT members will have the chance to make their case again next week, this time before the Board of Regents. Hopefully the regents will also jump on board with the promises and plans.
This movement of inclusion needs to move beyond just the black community, which has had very public instances to point — use of the n-word and blackface. But other groups also face prejudices that need to be stopped, including things such as sexual orientation and identity, religion and disabilities.
College is a time when young minds are formed. OU needs to make sure it is doing all it can to shape those views and actions in a positive way. It seems like every few months there is a new instance on campus that prompts the call for change. Hopefully this time there is change and it spreads from the campus and out to the community. Maybe, just maybe, it can reach far enough to change some of those racist views as well.
— Transcript Editorial Board