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Racial tensions bubble at Colorado College; more discussions, demonstrations planned

By: Chhun Sun
November 12, 2015 Updated: November 13, 2015 at 7:43 am
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Racial tensions surfaced on college campuses across the country this week, and Colorado College was no exception.

Racist comments on an anonymous social media site caused the president of the college's Black Student Union to call a meeting this week to quell fears among minority students.

Nebeu Abraha said Yik Yak messages about the racial divide on the campus began to pop up Monday. One message read, "I'm white and I should hate my skin color, but I don't. Sorry my ancestors were (expletive), doesn't mean I think what they did was right. I can't help I was born this color just as much as you can't." Others expressed hatred toward black students.

The social media app Yik Yak allows users to anonymously create discussion within a 5-mile radius.

Sophomore Shayna McClure, who's a member of the Black Student Union, said one post read, "Go back to the cotton fields."

By Tuesday morning, Abraha said, some black students were concerned for their safety.

"People were in tears," he said. "People were afraid to go to their dorm rooms."

The issues arose as two top administrators at the University of Missouri resigned amid racial tension on the university system's four campuses.

The week of turmoil there has led to meetings, rallies and other events on numerous U.S. campuses to draw attention to racism.

The three-hour meeting on Tuesday at CC attracted about 100 people to the Lennox House's Glass House, a center that aims to promote multicultural awareness. Abraha said only one faculty member attended because there was an all-staff meeting during the same time.

After the meeting, Abraha said a friend texted him a picture of graffiti that was discovered on a tunnel passageway under the Tutt Library on campus. In photographs obtained by The Gazette, the graffiti appears to reference the Yik Yak messages.

"Yik Yak Soldiers WANT TO BE SLAVE OWNERS (Expletive) YOU! YOU CANT CONTROL US," a message in what appears to be red spray paint said on one wall.

The other said, "if one of us is oppressed all of us are . "

Maintenance workers obscured the graffiti with paint the following day, school spokeswoman Leslie Weddell confirmed Thursday.

"The graffiti could be interpreted in many ways," Abraha said. "How I read it and the thought process I hope by which it was conceived is one of positivity and solidarity with students of color on the campus, specifically black students. The graffiti was another outlet for a voice to be heard that sadly otherwise would not have been heard."

"It validates stories that we continue to scream," he added.

School officials are reviewing security footage of the tunnel, but it will be "very difficult to make an identification," Weddell said in an email.

"The graffiti in the passageway/tunnel was not racist in itself; it was in reaction to racism," Weddell wrote.

Weddell said the school's president, Jill Tiefenthaler, is having discussions with students and student groups.

"The campus is always concerned when something like this happens," Weddell said.

Abraha and other Black Student Union members, who said they've faced on-campus racism, are planning to have further discussions and demonstrations about racial issues with students and faculty Monday, when the school returns from a five-day break.

A regularly scheduled all-staff meeting was held Thursday that featured a discussion about "the importance of having an ongoing dialogue on campus about diversity and inclusion," Weddell said.

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