On the heels of University of Missouri students being afraid to attend classes on the Mizzou campus Thursday because of death threats made on social media, the hashtag #BlackOnCampus was created, allowing other students to share their experiences at predominantly white institutions.
A lot of the tweets were similar stories of racism that black students face as the minority on campuses across the country. As someone who attended a PWI, way before social media, I couldn’t help wondering if things would have been different on the New Brunswick, N.J., campus of Rutgers University if social media had been around back then.
In 1995, then-Rutgers President Francis Lawrence made inflammatory comments about black students not doing well on standardized testing because of their genetic makeup. Those comments, of course, were met with backlash. Students protested. There were sit-ins at a Big East basketball game. We didn’t have Twitter or Facebook. The stories of protest were circulated the old-fashioned way: via the newspaper and broadcast news.
Days after Lawrence made the comments, he issued an apology. He said that his words were misconstrued. They always say their words were misconstrued. Despite the New Jersey NAACP calling for his firing, he didn’t step down.
But that wasn’t the only incident of racism on the campuses of Rutgers. As a black student, you seemingly knew where you weren’t welcome: from Fraternity Row, where all the “white” fraternity and sorority houses resided (by the way, the black Greek organizations didn’t have houses), to even some of the on-campus buildings, where, if you were black, you were greeted with a “What are you doing here?” look.
In 2015, black students across the country are experiencing the same things students I went to school with had to deal with. I guess the saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same” is something that will never die. Just like racism.