Reed: #ExplainIowa

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Keith Reed

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Much has happened this past week, and I can foresee more on the docket for the next week or so. Marcus Owens, a black University of Iowa student, was jumped in an alley near campus after allegedly being called a racial epithet. This happened over the weekend, and waking up to this news is startling. There was no warning from the university about this incident — social media was the delivery method of this news.

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld is the problem. Harreld has issues with listening to the needs and wants of the student body as well as teachers. There have been many protests and forums held in opposition to him. He has been under fire consistently since he became the president. Many people in the community and fellow students have staged boycotts and public forums to voice their grievances. As this is being written, the news outlet on campus is swelling with this news, but at what cost?

The UI is quick to report sexual assaults and suspected bomb threats, but it responded too slowly for this incident, which is unacceptable. I can agree with the fact that Hawk Alerts, as they are called, have been useful to me. These email notifications mostly include notice of sexual assaults and robberies that happen on and off campus. In many of these emails, the race of the suspected perpetrators is clearly identified, and the victim’s name is not disclosed.

The crime alert I received Wednesday at noon was inappropriately similar. The language included sterile terms, reading, “According to the victim, he was then struck several more times by multiple subjects while being called racial slurs.” The lack specificity in the email is the problem. UI officials are quick to say in a Hawk Alert that a suspect is black, but when a black man is the victim of a hate crime, they remove his race from the conversation. Neglecting to state the race of the victim is essentially operating under the pretense of not seeing color as an issue anymore. Leaving the race out in this instance is a hate crime because of the mental distress it has caused. Naming the race of the victim is necessary in this case because it is allegedly the reason he was attacked.

The black community needs to know that we need to be on alert. On umerous campuses — it is a shame — this incident has happened many times. This, too, is a racially charged campus. The university can boast diversity and recruit out-of-state students all it wants, but the reality is that we need to know, understand, and live actual diversity on campus. The university can “embrace diversity” and feature many races on the admissions brochures to be in line with that concept. We can stop posing for those photos, stop playing in your sports games, stop being the tokens that the university loves so much. The university needs to immediately find a solution to this unrest. Believe it or not, we have power and strength even though that is quite contrary to the way that the university and the racist public think.

On campus, it has become a necessity to acknowledge fellow black people when you see them, to let them know we’re in this together. It isn’t always easy — I have found myself to be the only minority in numerous classes. This has raised an essential question that has to be explored on every campus. Can the administration, in good conscience, provide a safe environment for these minorities? We need to change the taboo surrounding race on the UI campus, because we all know minorities are here. We have become pawns in a system that clearly cares about percentages than actual life cost. Your move Iowa, now it is time for you to explain this. #ExplainIowa.

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