Fellow Clemson Students,
It has been more than a month since the Clemson University chapter of Turning Point USA held an Affirmative Action "bake sale." And in that month, I had a lot of time to think. I’ve reflected. But most importantly — I have grieved.
I lamented over what TPUSA had done. Their makeshift bake sale reflected many things wrong with this country, this state and, more importantly to us as students, the culture of Clemson University.
While I found TPUSA’s “bake sale” troubling, it was the cherry on the top for many of us. Other incidents on campus are characterized by many as racist as well.
In 2016, students held a sit-in at Sikes Hall in protest of a banana peel found on a banner that recognizes African Americans who were enslaved and worked as convict laborers. The banner stands outside of the Fort Hill national landmark and antebellum plantation home of John C. Calhoun.
In 2014, a Clemson fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, held a "Cripmas" party in which people attended dressed as stereotypical images of African Americans, like thugs and gang members.
African American students at Clemson University have religiously been dragged into incidents that have involved them being mistreated over and over again.
I thought that Clemson was getting better and finally understanding that all that us Black kids want is to be seen, loved and cherished. I thought that the University that I had known for four years as an undergraduate student and now as a master's student finally saw us.
On Jan. 28, Clemson celebrated the 60th anniversary of desegregation. This event was held in high honor. The first African American student, Harvey Gantt, attended. He was commemorated for his pivotal role in helping integrate Clemson, and he had to file a lawsuit to even attend the University.
With the desegregation event under its belt, I felt that Clemson could finally move forward. But I was wrong.
On Feb. 1, the day that marked the start of Black History Month and all the wonderful accomplishments of African Americans, the Clemson University Chapter of TPSUA stood outside of Library Bridge. They posted a posterboard with prices that degraded students by the color of their skin.
On Feb. 9, eight days after the Affirmative Action bake sale, the Council of Diversity Affairs hosted a Town Hall to which all of the student body was invited. The town hall was meant to address the bake sale. I attended.
The conversation shifted to a discussion about hate speech. Panelists told students, “Hate speech is free speech, and free speech is hate speech.”
Yes, free speech is protected under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. And yes, student organizations can be about anything and promote messages any way they like. But that is not the problem here.
You see, Tigers, the issue is not with the message. Anyone reading this might have a different opinion than mine. That’s ok. What’s not ok is the way student organizations like TPUSA relay information. I share that there is a lack of empathy for some fellow Tigers.
I’ve seen and heard the words “Clemson Family” more times than I can count as an undergraduate and now a graduate student. I get it. Families don’t always see eye-to-eye, but I also get that if we are going to call ourselves a family, we should at least respect one another.
If we are truly a Clemson Family, each member should be heard, seen, and loved.
I firmly believe we can succeed as students from different races, backgrounds, religions and creeds if we dishonor hate.
Fellow Tigers, I leave you with this:
The recent events on campus lit a fire that continues to smolder. Many don’t like to talk about the "bake sale." But we should. We should talk before the next racially offensive event takes place on campus. I pray that doesn’t happen, but given the current climate, I suspect it will.
Consider this quote from James Baldwin, an acclaimed author who was both Black and queer:
“Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?” James Baldwin, "The Fire Next Time," 1963.
If a bake sale, that is obviously satirical is what hurts your feelings. you’re going to have a rough life. Not everything is racist.
Very well put. The family should be respecting of every member, not backhanded, but direct if there’s a perceived problem and we fix it.
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