|UA students Kaylin Lee, Maiya Gaspard, and Alexis
Moody gather for a protest at Rose Hall
In fact, a student-faculty group called "We Are Done" staged a protest yesterday morning near Foster Auditorium on the UA campus. The group has issued a list of 10 demands that it claims will foster an environment of diversity and tolerance at UA.
We suspect the protests at several campuses are largely symbolic. But that should not be the case at the University of Alabama, where we have shown racism exists in very high places--and it's even directed at the powerhouse and supposedly beloved Crimson Tide football team.
Some students already have called attention to the ugliness that rests beneath the surface at UA. Several of them recently released a video about their encounters with racism on the Tuscaloosa campus. (See video at the end of this post.)
How high does racist rhetoric go at UA? As high as the private box of Paul Bryant Jr., a trustee emeritus and perhaps the Crimson Tide's most powerful booster.
J.T. Smallwood, the tax collector for Jefferson County, was in Bryant's box at an Alabama football game when he looked down over the enormous crowd and was heard to say the following:
"Can you imagine this many people pay us to watch n-----s beat up on each other?"
Language doesn't get much more vile and racist than that. When you consider that it was directed at football players, including those wearing crimson jerseys . . . well, it looks like "We Are Done" has a lot of work to do in Tuscaloosa.
Ironically, it was a threatened boycott from football players that apparently led Missouri's president and chancellor to announce their resignations after a series of race-based incidents on campus. Alabama, ranked No. 2 in the country, has a much better football team than Missouri. But that apparently has not earned much respect for Crimson Tide players among certain high-level fans and administrators.
|Jefferson County tax collector
[Yesterday] morning, students with the We Are Done organization gathered in protest on campus at the Malone Hood Plaza and then marched to the steps of Gorgas library, where several students spoke at length and the protestors chanted for change.
The demonstration was held to promote changes on the issues of race, gender, sexuality, religion and socioeconomic status. We Are Done is also calling for the administration and the Board of Trustees to acknowledge the existence of the Machine and make strides to bring it above ground.
Some of the main goals for the group is to remove names of white supremacists and Confederate generals from University property, or at least erect markers denoting the racist history of the buildings’ namesakes.
Who is behind "We Are Done" at UA? The answer is not clear, but a recent article by Alyx Chandler in The Crimson White provides insight. From Chandler's article:
The group of concerned students, none representing specific organizations, collectively wrote a letter titled “We only have one demand” and placed it in University president Stuart Bell's secretary's possession that morning before classes started. The secretary confirmed that she received the letter.
“We want the administration to actually acknowledge that racism exists on campus," said Maiya Gaspard, a sophomore majoring in general health studies and one of the students standing in front of Rose. "We want for people to call it what it is, so we can start change."
The UA students stood for two reasons.
One was as concerned students for the University of Missouri, where the University president stepped down on Monday after controversies in which minority students demanded action from school leaders over what student activists called a climate of racism for the predominately white campus. . . .
“It's [Mizzou] creating a bridge,” said Kaylyn Lee, a senior majoring in political and communications studies.
The second reason dealt with students' grievances about administration involvement and acknowledgement on the UA campus about diversity and racism. The letter addressed the need for a diversity officer, a cultural diversity space and an updated version of the University's 2008 strategic diversity plan.
It should not be hard for university administrators to acknowledge that racism exists on campus. It easily can be found in the luxury box of perhaps the university's best known official. If it can be found there--directed toward Crimson Tide football players--God only knows where else it is present.