Alabama Students Are Much Better Than The Racist Rhetoric Online

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States issued their historic decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In it, the court ruled that segregation of public schools in the United States was unconstitutional.

Despite this, numerous schools in the American South fought to keep segregation alive.

My own university, the University of Alabama, was one of them.

In 1956, Autherine Juanita Lucy, became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Alabama but her enrollment was rescinded after it was discovered that she was African-American.

With the aid of the NAACP, Lucy sued the University of Alabama for racial discrimination and three years later, Alabama allowed Lucy to re-enroll.

Lucy’s enrollment resulted in riots and threats to her safety and prompted her eventual suspension, purportedly for her own protection.

In addition to Lucy’s fight to attend the University of Alabama, efforts to continue segregation at the school led to Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous Stand in the Schoolhouse Door outside of Foster Auditorium.

Read More: University Of Alabama Student Suspended After Sending Racially Charged Threats

On June 11, 1963, Vivian Malone and James Hood, African-American students who had been admitted to the University of Alabama, arrived to register for classes, but were met by Wallace and other Alabamians who supported the continued segregation of public schools. However, despite a well-received speech on state’s rights, Malone and Hood were permitted into Foster Auditorium to register for classes.

Over 50 years later, the University of Alabama is one of the largest and most successful universities in the United States; both academically and athletically.

Today, Foster Auditorium still stands with the addition of a plaza and clock tower named after Autherine Lucy, Vivian Malone, and James Hood.

Students walk past the very spot George Wallace stood to prevent two eager students from enrolling in classes, simply because of the color of their skin.

Students have entered Foster Auditorium to cheer for Alabama’s volleyball team, women’s basketball team, and wheelchair basketball teams.

Wallace’s Stand in the Schoolhouse Door and the days of overt racism and prejudice may seem like they are merely memories of the distant past, but that is not the reality for students of color at the University of Alabama.

Within the last few years, the University of Alabama has come under national scrutiny for maintaining de facto segregation in its sororities, a secret society of Greek students (as in fraternity and sorority members) who mainly control the Student Government Association at UA (and is known as “the Machine”) blackmailed sororities into supporting their chosen homecoming queen candidate over one who was African-American, and the resultant backlash from the Machine when the first African-American SGA President was elected in 40 years.

Read More: University Of Alabama Must Expel Student Who Used Racist Threats

Sadly, these are just a few of the incidents that have made national news, and this racism on campus is becoming more and more overt, especially on social media.

The most recent event to occur at the University of Alabama was a series of comments made regarding Black Lives Matter and the Bama Sits protest.

In 2015,Brendesha M. Tynes, conducted a study analyzing online discrimination and recorded that the participants in the study reported six primary forms of racial discrimination: (1) racial epithets, (2) inaccurate racial stereotypes and statements, (3) racist jokes, (4) symbols of hate (i.e. the Confederate flag), (5) threats of physical harm and/or death threats, and (6) graphic representations/images of dead black bodies.

Aside from the graphic images of dead bodies, the other five forms of online discrimination have flooded the Alabama Student Ticket Exchange group on Facebook and the Bama sits hashtag as well.

Personally, I have witnessed comments where a student used the term “the colored people,” another student told African-American students to “get a f**king white mask and where [sic] it around,” Alabama fans referring to students protesting as “bastards,” an Alabama fan referring to Black Lives Matter as a disease, and students making violent threats towards students participating in the Bama Sits protests and African-American students.

Within the past week, one student, Ryan Parish, has been suspended for threatening to kill a student and referring to them as a ni**er and two others, one student and one non-student, are being investigated for threats they posted on social media as well.

This poses the question, why are these people so comfortable with posting such racist comments publicly on social media?

I know that I have been warned to be cautious with what I post on social media since it can impact employment and educational opportunities, but why does this not deter other people from making offensive comments on race and other matters?

To answer this question, we have to look at what social media offers.

In certain forums (i.e. Reddit, and to some extent Facebook and Twitter) the ability to comment and share your opinions while keeping your identity anonymous provides the perfect environment to spread hateful rhetoric without facing any consequences.

However, the Alabama students and fans posting these comments did not seem concerned with keeping their identities anonymous.

Perhaps the concept of group polarization provides a better explanation of these brassy comments with their racist rhetoric.

Group polarization occurs when a group of people who share the same beliefs and opinions become even more extreme in their opinions after they have discussed it with each other

Business Insider reporter Tony Manfred tried to explain that the internet is racist due to a number of reasons, including the idea that the brief “fame” or popularity that comes with posting such an unpopular and hateful opinion also encourages the public to overt racism.

These theories are certainly plausible, and I believe, in addition to these theories, that the platform that social media gives a person to easily share their opinions along with the systematic racism that still runs rampant in our country breed the perfect hostile environment for racism and threats.

I have spent almost seven years of my life, working on my undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Alabama.

It is no secret that I love my alma mater and the role it has played in molding a very crucial brick in the foundation of who I am.

However, I am embarrassed by the racism, especially the blatant racism, which is harbored and promoted by my fellow Alabama students and fans.

However, the disappointment that I have in my fellow Alabama students is much greater. When we enroll at the University of Alabama, we agree to live by the Capstone Creed: “As a member of the University of Alabama community, I will pursue knowledge, act with fairness, integrity and respect; promote equity and inclusion; foster individual and civic responsibility; and strive for excellence in all I do.”

We are better than this, my fellow Alabama students. Let us rise above the prejudice and hate and no longer tolerate it. Let us be great on levels.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: University of Alabama/ Facebook

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About the Author
Lexi Poston is currently a graduate student in criminology at the University of Alabama. She holds B.A.s in International Studies, Criminal Justice, and Religious Studies. She is an activist, a lover of all animals, and a self-proclaimed body modification connoisseur.
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