FSU students discuss racial tensions on campus

Students meeting in FSU’s Black Student Union building. Photo by Edna Rutland

A group of students met in Florida State University’s Black Student Union earlier this month to express their feelings and discuss methods of change on racial relations on and around FSU’s campus. The incidents which spurred this discussion took place during FSU’s first home football game of the season. According to several students, numerous incidents in and around FSU’s stadium took place.

On Sept. 5, sophomore Ashanti Grace and her friends got to the game early to find good seats. They sat in the student section and settled in ready to participate in the festivities and enjoy the game.

This was the first time in about a decade that registered student organizations could sign up for block seating. This was popular with several organizations signing up, including  Panhellenic organization Kappa Alpha Theta.

As more people started to arrive, Grace says members of Kappa Alpha Theta came up to her group and accosted them because they were in their section.

In a public statement Grace said, “They [Theta] shouted a series of expletives at us and ganged up on us attempting to force our removal.”

In a later interview with FSView, Grace said while no racist remarks were explicitly said, the entire situation felt “elitist” and racially motivated.

This is just one story of what was happening to one student on one game day.  In response, FSU’s Black Student Union held a meeting Sept. 15 to discuss this situation as well as other students’ individual experiences. They along with several concerned members of the student body met to discuss what’s happening on campus, their own personal experiences, their feelings on the situation, and what needs to change. Several students shared their experiences of racially motivated attacks, and the entire room was open and vulnerable.

They expressed their hurt and disappointment at the not only outward displays of racial aggression, but the micro-aggressions they face on a daily basis. Even the people who they depend on to protect them often end  up being, at best unhelpful and unsympathetic, and at worst, aggressive and trigger happy.

One student was Bre’onna Brewer, a 21-year-old criminology major. She opened up about a situation with the FSU police. They were extremely aggressive and inappropriate with her and her friends, she said. When Brewer reached out to the administration and the FSU police department, all she received was a response of, “There’s nothing we can do.”

Those five words are the most disheartening thing for anyone to hear, but for a young adult looking for help it can be devastating. College is hard enough without having to deal with discrimination at the university you have trusted to shape and mold you into an upstanding and successful member of society, the students said.

The meeting did not end on a powerless note, however. Several students also stood up to discuss possible solutions, provide resources, or  volunteer their friendship. The entire room was eager to provide support for students who might be experiencing any type of discrimination on campus.