In the last few years, we’ve all been lectured about how the biggest crisis in K-12 public schools is Segregation: not enough Students of Color go to majority white public schools.
But then there is also the crisis of Integration or Too Many White Students, as the New York Times explained today in an enormously long article about Young Women of Color’s hurt feelings to start off the new decade on a wholly different note from the media obsessions of the last seven years:
The video was created to show off the University of Wisconsin. Instead, it set off a furor, and a reckoning over what it means to be a black student on campus.
By Julie Bosman, Emily Shetler and Natalie Yahr
Jan. 1, 2020
MADISON, Wis. — The video was just two minutes long: a sunny montage of life at the University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus in Madison. Here were hundreds of young men and women cheering at a football game, dancing in unison, riding bicycles in a sleek line, “throwing the W” for the camera, singing a cappella, leaping into a lake.
“Home is where we grow together,” a voice-over said. “It’s where the hills are. It’s eating our favorite foods. It’s where we can all harmonize as one. Home is Wisconsin cheese curds. It’s welcoming everyone into our home.”
Days before Homecoming Week, the student homecoming committee, tasked with producing the video, posted it online. The outrage was almost instantaneous. Virtually every student in the video was white.
This is the story of a video that galvanized and divided a university plagued by a history of racist incidents, as told by the people who saw it happen. Black students in particular say the homecoming video crystallized a daily fact of life: They feel they are not wanted at the University of Wisconsin, where there are significantly fewer African-Americans per capita than in the state, which is mostly white. This fall, more than 30,000 undergraduates began the school year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fewer than 1,000 of them are African-American. …
To students of color, the homecoming video was a glimpse of what they experienced every day as they walked through campus. The video prompted a burst of student activism, an attempt by university officials to educate about diversity and a reckoning over who feels at home at the University of Wisconsin. …
A video would boost the promotional aspect of it all, the students decided, a short, visual ode to school spirit. The committee enlisted student organizations to be filmed — among them Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically black sorority.
At the end of September, the video was finished and posted on Facebook. No one expected it to be seen very widely.
One evening, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha noticed that the video had been posted online.
Payton Wade, 21, a senior and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha: We were tagged on Facebook when they said a “thank you” to all of the organizations who participated in the video. And I watched the video and I realized that we weren’t in it.
Olivia Lopez, 22, a senior from Milwaukee who identifies as biracial: People started talking about it Monday, and they actually took it down off their website and their Facebook. But a couple of our peers had screen recorded it so that people could still see it and know what all the uproar was about. …
Olivia Lopez: I was just like, how did they not realize how wrong this is? …
Emilie Cochran, a reporter for The Badger Herald student newspaper who covered the story: It made people uncomfortable, seeing a lot of people who look alike representing the university. And it woke people up, saying, this is actually what our university looks like. …
The video had been deleted for more than a week, but it would not go away.
Copies that students had made were watched on phones in dorms, coffee shops and the student union. Campus newspapers covered the story, and so did The Wisconsin State Journal, in which a headline declared, “UW-Madison Apologizes for Now-Deleted Homecoming Video of Nearly All-White Student Body.” The students of the Homecoming Committee continued with their planned week of events before the homecoming football game, hoping the furor would die down.
Students of color pushed in the other direction. They formed a group called the Student Inclusion Coalition. Their suggestion was to use the upcoming game to address outrage over the video. The administration agreed to help make a new video. This one would feature students of color — and it would be broadcast at halftime.
… The campus woke up to a message, scrawled in black.
Someone had taken a copy of The Daily Cardinal, a student newspaper, and written a message on it in large block letters: “UW 4 WHITES ONLY!”
The newspaper was taped outside Science Hall, a stately red brick building on campus, and it stunned the first people who saw it. The response from the university was swift.
At 6:46 a.m., the @UWMadison Twitter account wrote:
UW stands against hate and racism. We’re aware that, last night, a racist message was posted on a building sign outside Science Hall. We are removing this message and any others and @UWMadisonPolice is investigating.
That morning, more signs were discovered around campus. One read, “UW DON’T CARE ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE.” Another read, “I’M TIRED OF HAVING TO TEACH MY TEACHERS.”
Soon, the university released a new statement, which read, in part:
These posters appear now to be part of a coordinated campaign calling attention to experiences of underrepresented students.
Nile Lansana: I think it was poorly executed and poorly worded. I know for me, and it’s not really like this matters, but when I heard about it, I definitely thought that it was a white person doing it. And then when I found out it wasn’t, I was like, O.K., I get where you were.
John Lucas, university spokesman: It was not a hate or bias act. It was more an act of student activism or protest.
We have Hate Hoaxes and also Hate Hysteria (such as when the wind blows over a protected group’s tent or sign or whatever in the middle of the night and it gets blamed on the KKK or the Ghost of Henry Harpending or whatever). But we probably need another category for Hate Cluelessness or Hate Stupidity or whatever in which The Establishment mistakes the kind of anti-white hate that they advocate for anti-black hate.
Like if somebody put up a piece of paper on a public bulletin board reading:
At the U. of Wisconsin-Madison, it’s OK to be white.
It would be a racism … until it was discovered that it was put up by a Student of Color protesting that … it’s OK to be white at the U. of Wisconsin-Madison, at which point it would be stunning and brave.
You know, I’m starting to think this new decade is going to be the same as the old decade: Who? Whom? all the way down…