In 1949, after 3 years of legal battle, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher became the first African American student to be admitted to the University of Oklahoma College of Law. This was one of the first moments that disrupted racism on our campus, but by no means did it end it. In more recent years, episodes of overt racism at OU have made headlines, from the 1996 desecration of American Indian teepees by six fraternity members to the 2015 SAE racism incident. The year of 2016 has differed very little: in September, Indigenous protesters were targets of harassment while picketing a Donald Trump fundraiser hosted at the home of Hunter and Kathy Miller (the daughter of Coach Barry Switzer). And just a few days before this publication, an OU student was suspended for involvement in sending racist messages to black students from the University of Pennsylvania. Despite 67 years of working towards inclusivity at our university, it’s obvious that we still have a long way to go before we can claim equal representation and treatment for all students.
There is one thing that we would like to make clear as we introduce this subject: Donald Trump and the 2016 presidential election are not the reasons we decided to cover the topic of disrupting racism. Racism is a prevalent and important issue no matter the political climate. It influences the way people of color navigate this world, and it decides who benefits from our nation’s systems. There are some who feel that the best way to combat racism is to downplay it, to ignore it, and avoid discussing it altogether. However, apathy or avoidance of a problem does not create a solution; often, it can worsen matters. Universities should be places where people feel safe and are able to discuss difficult material; we need to take more steps to foster and maintain this sort of environment. This is why we chose to dedicate this issue to the students, faculty, and alumni that work to disrupt racism on our campus and in our communities. Discussing racism has been a goal of ours since the inception of FORUM.
We hope that, through reading this issue, you feel more able to recognize forms and instances of racism, disrupt racism that you encounter, and support movements that fight discrimination. We hope that you take what you read in this issue and use it to push back against the racism on our campus, whether it be posters left by white supremacists under the cover of night or an offensive chant echoed by fraternity brothers (such as what happened with SAE); any one occurrence of bigotry is one instance too many.We hope that if you find racism awkward or uncomfortable to talk about (if you have not been concerned about it because of your background or privilege), this issue will give you a foundation to start that discussion in an open way. Racism is real. It can be tense to talk about. We hope you find tangible actions here to prevent and disrupt racism both on campus and globally. We hope that you will read this issue and feel validated and heard, safe to be yourself. We hope that you will see the way racism intersects with all social movements including gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and environmental issues to name a few. No matter what happens or who holds political office, this will always be our hope.
We’re optimistic, and we hope that you will be, too.
Continue reading the issue “Disrupting Racism at OU.”
Co-written by Ashley Jeffalone (left) and Danielle Wierenga (right.)
Ashley Jeffalone is OUFORUM Alumni Section Editor, Psychology major, and an aspiring writer.