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N.C. State Students React To Racist Comments

This story was written by Alison Harman, Technician

When Michael Griffin was filling out his application to North Carolina State University, he didnt expect to encounter much discrimination.

When he checked preferred housing, he didnt factor in that a central campus residence hall would put him through a Free Expression Tunnel painted with threatening comments.

When he filled in his extra curricular activities, he didnt expect that when he got to campus, one of his new pasttimes would be building resiliency to racism.

I actually didnt feel that so much discrimination was prevalent on campus, Griffin, a freshman in First Year College, said. It made me think about my surroundings.

Although he said he has been the target of more than one racist comment, he did not expect the status messages that griped about more than President-elect Barack Obamas party affiliation and the messages that were scrawled across the Free Expression Tunnel.

Ive been discriminated against, and Ive run across people who have been totally ignorant toward certain issues -- toward a lot of things, he said. I honestly didnt know how to react. You would think that on a campus like North Carolina State University, we would have more people who are appreciative of different types of backgrounds. But people arent.

Griffin isnt alone in his sentiment.

Elvin James, a sophomore in first year college, said not only was the tunnels graffiti a blow to how he perceived the community, but also a threat to himself and his peers.

I have not encountered anyone who has had the same belieds as those who wrote on the wall. No I havent, James said. Its like the people that Ive met have been very friendly and no threat to me at all. To see the graffiti on the wall, it had me kind of scared. There are people out there who could cause a threat to me as well as others on this campus.

Lindsay Hughes, a senior in communication disorders, said she was disappointed that, in some ways, N.C. State lived up to its backward reputation.

Ive almost been embarrassed or just disgusted in how N.C. State has reacted. I would just hope that educated students would be more open-minded than to stoop to a level of degrading one another, she said. I dont think that now, race should be any more of an issue than it ever was in the past.

Hughes said Obama ran on issue-based platforms just like any other president would, and the actions of those who went and painted all of those things was a surprise.

I didnt expect for people to react that way because I just through that we have come a little but farther than that. That really surprised me, she said. You couldnt help but notice his race, but I didnt expect for us to have a problem on a college campus.

But the African Student Union is sponsoring a week-long event that Griffin and James said they plan on attending -- African Awareness Week. Although the week coincides with racism James said he felt was hidden until now, both said they hope the event will bring an awareness of the African culture to campus.

There are so many different misconceptions about the African culture, Griffin said. President Obama, hes a Nigerian descendant. Hes muti-racial. He is a class of African Americans, but he has that African descent. African Awareness week enables people to see that there is good in all different types of cultures, and you shouldnt allow stereotypes about different cultures and ethnicities to distort our way of thinking about certain individuals.

He said there is a strong connection between last weeks events and the week-long celebration of culture.

It enables others to see that you cant let the color of ones skin lead you to say violent things aout other people, Griffin said, adding that the event is a good way to react to the arise and prominence of such cultural misconceptions.

Kendra McCaffity, a sophomore in communication and psychology, said although the event serves to make people aware of their culture and heritage, it is open to anyone who wants to learn about the culture.

It may help alleviate racial stereotypes and misconceptions on campus, she said.

Or it may not.

If you do programs where youre teaching, then I think it will help because people are basing their assumptions and stereotypes on what they just assume of they might know. It could be beneficial if they come to these programs and actually learn about it, she said. If they dont come and they dont care, then it wouldnt work.

She said although she has not experienced discrimination, she knows people who have encountered some stereotypical types of racist comments.

I wasnt surprised that any of this happened. Either side of the election, like if McCain had won, it would have been the same way, she said. Either way, someone had lost and someone had won.

The communitys diversity lends itself not only to different races and cultures, but also different ways of thought.

Racism has not disappeared yet, and its not over yet. When you come in from a community, I guess it depends on that background. If your parents think that way, you might think that way, McCaffity said. College is you coming out on your own, and being yourself. You might decide, maybe my parents think this way, but I think another way. Or you might decide you agree with your parents.

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