Incidences of racism on Colorado campuses causes local outrage

29 October 2019

Devon Williams | Cambrea Hall

dwilli12@uccs.edu | chall2@uccs.edu

Many people are demanding that further action be taken to eliminate racist behavior on college campuses as two racist incidents have occurred at Colorado universities within a short time period.

Several white Colorado State University (CSU) students posted to social media with black on their faces and striking a pose from the movie “Black Panther,” along with the caption “Wakanda forevaa.” Their actions will not be punished by the school due to fi rst amendment rights, administrators said. The photo quickly went viral and received a lot of criticism.

In a letter posted on the school’s website, Joyce McConnell, CSU’s president, and two other administrators said that they understood that the image caused a great deal of pain.

“We have heard from many of you — and we hear you. Moreover, we respect your voices. We know that images like this one — whether consciously racist or not — can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile,” according to the letter.

CSU administration affirmed the rights of community members free speech. “Students, faculty and staff can generally post whatever they wish to post on their personal online accounts in accordance with their First Amendment right.”

Administration defended their decision in the letter after admitting that the post is against their community principles, but that it does not violate any CSU policy and that the First Amendment limits steps that CSU can take. One of the students in the photo came forward and identified herself as Leana Kaplan.

According to Sarah Kyle, writer for the website Coloradoan, they had received an email on Sept. 13 from Kaplan’s father, Les Kaplan. This email included a statement from the younger Kaplan.

In her statement, Kaplan explained how the photo was taken out of ignorance and how not at one point did they question whether they were coming across as racist.

Kaplan wrote: “Racism is wrong, and it is evil. As a white female, I do not live with nor will I ever personally experience the currents of racial prejudice that still exist on the surface of our society and, more insidiously, as undercurrents hidden and running deep. I am guilty of insensitivity and stupidity, but these do not make me a racist nor even a denier of my racism, as so many are.”

Kaplan described in her statement that since posting the photo, she has received daily death threats, harassment and experiences constant fear. She categorizes all these experiences under prejudice.

Kaplan said she is not looking for sympathy. Instead, she believes people should recognize that the damage done to her is way out of proportion to what she calls, “an act of poor judgement during a moment of silliness.” She concludes her statement: “I’d like to say to those who have been offended, it is unfair to conclude that an awful photo is evidence of an awful person. If progress is to be made in the battle against racism, the full spectrum of sensitivity must include not creating any more victims.” Earlier this month, a video was posted on social media that shows a white woman using the N-word while yelling at a black CU Boulder student. CU President Mark Kennedy supported the launch of a full-on investigation into the confrontation.

“We will learn more in the next few days, but I want to be clear in unequivocally condemning racist and threatening behaviors,” Kennedy said in a tweet.

Black Student Awareness spokesperson from CU Boulder Kolondja Thillot said in a statement to the CU Independent, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Thillet also expressed to the CU Independent that there seems to exist a disconnect from CU Boulder’s campus-wide statements of diversity and inclusion and the actual practice and execution in the spirit of these statements.

The woman in question is not a CU Boulder student and Boulder campus police are on the lookout for her, and are looking into permanently banning her from campus.

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