Inklings of racial controversy were written onto the Richland Wall, leaving Ohio University students in a mass uproar. The incident that has arisen is the painting of racial slurs over a mural on the Richland Wall this past Tuesday. The mural, which symbolized a painting of an African Sahara, was covered with the silhouette of a figure hanging from a tree with the words “Build The Wall” beside the horrific image. Once students saw these exploits, they were immediately enraged by the vandalistic acts. Many of them went to news and social media outlets to express their frustrations regarding this issue, as well as the current racial tensions that resulted in the mural’s ruin.
Sophomore student, Khabonina Beresford, spoke of these frustrations and the feelings this recent situation inflicted. Beresford said, “I was disgusted and terrified. It (vandalism) makes me skeptical of the people I’m going to school and surrounding myself with. The area I’m living in it makes me wonder if I’m safe here.” Since the incident, students have covered the wall in black with statements “Black Lives Matter” and “Racism Will Not Be Tolerated Here.” Leaving the racial markings present as affirmation that these tensions exist and the uproar is a direct result of them. Organizations like the Black Student Union (BSU) and OU’s National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter took it upon themselves to utilize their platform and address the incident. According to writer Abbey Marshall of the postathens.com, organizations BSU and NAACP held a meeting to devise a plan of action to negate such situations. BSU vice president and the secretary of NAACP, Jasmyn Pearl, acknowledged the importance of the meeting and the affects she hoped it would inflict.
“The purpose of this meeting was to alert other organizations of what our plan of action is in hopes that they will join us in furthering our requests,” Pearl said. In the meeting, students and organizations concluded a number of propositions they feel will broaden a more diverse perspective on campus. Potentially, eliminating incidents such as this one and many that have surfaced prior to this recent unraveling from occurring in the future. These propositions included, “an anti-hate speech clause in the student code of conduct, disciplinary measures, a ‘culture of inclusion’ task force, diversity training and cultural competency courses at the university.”
University officials have yet to comment on this situation and the actions that have taken place since its occurrence. Students have asked these officials to address this issue, especially OU President Roderick McDavis. McDavis has vocalized his displeasure with the racial climate in the past, and acknowledged the unacceptance of these actions despite the inscribed freedoms the wall has represented since its inception. Over time, becoming an intricate staple for students and organizations to express themselves. Providing an outlet for them to tackle major topics within our society and to create outside barriers of judgment. However, hate crimes aimed at any sex, race or ethnic groups are not to be tolerated. Beyond the occasional public statement and mass email, students are looking for McDavis and others in administrative positions to do more to alleviate this racial divide.
OU Student Senate Leader, Priscilla Opoku, spoke about what she expects the university to do following situations such as these. Opoku said, “I think President McDavis needs to speak out a lot more and be more hands on in these issues.” This statement is one that has ultimately become the consensus on campus. Despite the number of students and organizations that’ve come together to provide a solution for these acts, their influence isn’t as powerful as the voices that make up this university. Opoku feels once these individuals not only publicize their discomfort, but come together collectively to take further action to eliminate these issues, the impact would be a large one. Potentially, shifting the current racial climate that’s contributed to the divide of the OU community. Opoku continued, expressing her avid faith that the change President McDavis has spoken of will come.
“There will be change. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not ten years from now, but we have to keep trying because too many of our ancestors have fought for the opportunities we have today.” However, it seems to solve these issues of racial divide there’s a lengthy process to endure. The steps to take forward are undetermined, but it starts with larger voices speaking out and taking action. Acknowledging how these exploits effect the community and that change is necessary. It’s important for those in administrative positions to instill their influence to help set the structure for this agenda. They can use this influence to develop the propositions that organizations such as BSU, NAACP and others have addressed to expand ideas of diversity. Ultimately, helping to build a safer and more inclusive environment for the individuals that make up this institution.