Racism at Miami University Fuels Student-Led Protests

“Love and Honor”

This is the greeting and famous slogan for students and alumni at Miami University, a high-ranked research institution located 35 miles north of Cincinnati in Oxford, Ohio. This motto means a variety of things from students feeling like they belong when they are at Miami to students and faculty being there and supporting one another. But in the wake of tolerated racist occurrences, many of the undergraduates have been asking the thought-provoking question “What is Love and Honor?”

It was sparked by a sophomore at Miami University, Thomas Wright, who referred to black students at Miami as the N-word in a GroupMe chat. In response to this, a junior at Miami, De’Vante Montgomery, posted on Facebook stating:

So, Miami University student, Thomas Wright, described black students as a ‘n—-r’ in a GroupMe chat, There’s about 500 black students out of 16,000 at Miami. This is what we deal with DAILY! I dare all of the white students to hold him and the UNIVERSITY accountable. Are we surprised? Hell no!!! But we are about to make him famous,It’s time to have a serious conversation about being BLACK AT MIAMI UNIVERSITY.”

This single Facebook post, published on November 1st, 2017, amassed over 500 likes in as little as five days, forcing Wright to issue a response. “I’ve talked to faculty and I’ve talked to students. I’m owning up to what I said. I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. I’m sorry,” Wright said. “I want people to know that I’m taking steps to learn from this and steps to educate those that don’t understand the meaning of the word. This has put things in perspective.”

When inquired on if the university will take disciplinary action against Thomas Wright, the school responded that matters of that sort were to be kept private. Due to what happened next, many believe that Wright was only given a slap on the wrist. Within one semester after his “sincere” apology, Wright began to use his new publicity as a way to find a mate on dating app, Tinder. He bragged about calling black students the N-word, using it as a way to seem “edgy.”

 

This was quickly screenshotted and posted on Twitter by the account above, prompting over seventy students to assemble for protest in the Armstrong Student Center at Miami. Students held signs with slogans such as “Smash White Supremacy”, “Action Not Apologies”, and “We Pay to Be Disrespected.” Students then took turns speaking through a megaphone and expressing their feelings through a series of chants shouting “Whose Space? Our Space” and “Do Black Lives Matter? Yes!” During the protest, a Miami University a police officer appeared, senior Davaughn Golden turned to him using the megaphone and asked “Why do you show up here at a peaceful protest, but when Thomas Wright speaks up, you’re nowhere?’

Making matters even worse, another student then gets their phone out and snaps a picture for Snapchat of the protesters with the caption “Who let the zoo out” followed by monkey emojis. When protesters began to shout in anger at their classmate they only shrugged, smirked, then walked away as their significant other found the situation somewhat humorous and began to cackle.

 

The protesters then used that comment which was meant to bring them down to uplift them in a rallying cry. “You know what happens when a lion gets let out of the zoo?” junior De’Vante Montgomery said into the megaphone. “He roars! And we’re about to roar too!” The president of Miami University, Greg Crawford, issued a statement on Twitter in response to the student protest.

 

Many students feel that the President and the administration is all talk and no action, calling the president’s response just “lip service” if nothing is done. They want to see the student suspended or removed from the institution as a justifiable consequence for his actions. “If other public universities across the nation can suspend and remove students for racial discrimination and hate, why can’t Miami do the same?” Montgomery wrote in a Facebook post. “How many more meetings and emails will it take?”

Students decided that yet again they would be forced to take matters into their own hands. They revived a group known as the Black Action Movement 2.0. Whose goal is to address discriminatory incidents on campus; demand the restructuring of institutional policies and initiatives, and enlighten others of Black Students’ ordeals to usher an inclusive Miami University community.” The Black Action Movement put out a release of demands that can be accessed here.

Some of these demands also include building a new office of diversity affairs, meetings with top Miami officials and “micro-aggression” training for all university employees by August. All in all, the Black Action Movement demands more than just recognition. In the list of demands the B.A.M. called for a meeting with the administrators, they agreed and the meeting took place on the morning of Friday, April 6, 2018. They met with the school’s top officials including President Crawford and discussed what they could do in order to improve race relations and diversity sensitivity on Miami’s campus.

Both the administration and the Black Action Movement have noted progress within their first meeting, the B.A.M stated, “It was very productive and we look forward to continue to work with administration to create a more diverse and inclusive Miami University.”While the eight core members of the Movement were in the meeting, other students were encouraged to attend the Student Speak Out outside of the Office of Diversity Affairs where the meeting took place.

“Students were encouraged to write thoughts and opinions on administration, the racial climate on campus, and other responses to everything that has been happening on here on big poster-size sticky sheets and they were stuck up on the walls around the Armstrong seal and main staircase, as well as on the glass walls of the meeting room we were in so that administration could see,” the group said.

 

The students at Miami University will continue to meet with their school officials and bring their list of demands along with them. This is only the start and their revolution is nowhere near finished. They will continue to make sure that the campus becomes an inclusive, diverse, safe space for all people so that one day no one will ever have to ask the question “What is Love and Honor?”

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUPPORT THE BLACK ACTION MOVEMENT 2.0 YOU CAN DONATE HERE.

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