On Feb. 24, President Peterson vacated sanctions against Phi Delta Theta as per recommendation by former Chief Justice Leah Ward-Sears in her report. The report stated that the fraternity was given due process, but the sanctions could not stand because the fraternity leadership was not complicit in the two incidents that occurred. President Peterson addressed members of various black student organizations at three separate town hall meetings during the week of Feb. 29. Members of Phi Delta were present at two of the sessions.
It is frustrating and infuriating as a student to watch the events regarding Phi Delta unfold. Black-Americans historically have seldom received due process within any court (academic, legal or otherwise). The judicial system within this university should be designed to work in our favor because we are the groups who suffer the most due to marginalization and exclusion. 50 years of pseudo-equality does not mitigate 400 years of oppression and social inequality; not even at Georgia Tech. Regardless of how much you hate political correctness, there are certain words and phrases that evoke so much hate and fear that they simply should not be said. Our experience is different because of the color of our skin, and the GT community needs to come to the realization that this institution is not colorblind. Racism and systemic oppression still exist today. I do acknowledge the progress we have made, however, we still have a long way to go.
I came to Georgia Tech with high expectations. We are at one of the highest ranking public institutions in the United States. We tout being the first major university in the south to integrate peacefully. This institute graduates the most African-American engineers and doctorates. My experience at Georgia Tech has been phenomenal, and I have grown academically, socially, and professionally. I have made friends here and formed relationships that I know will last a lifetime. Regardless, as a black student, my experience has been different relative to my peers, especially in the context of a predominantly white institution. I have grown more cognizant of this difference during my time at Tech. And while I can’t speak on the experiences of the 1000+ black students on this campus, I can certainly speak of my own.
Racism today is not black men and women hanging from trees. Racism today is not employment, education or housing discrimination. Racism today does not manifest itself in the denial of the right to vote. Racism is a lot more subtle and pervasive.
Racism is when a GTPD car slows down as it passes you as you are walking home from the library at night. Racism is when GTPD then stops you and asks for your student ID. Racism is when your peers tell you that you’re here because of affirmative action. Racism is when your peers assume you’re here because of an athletic scholarship. Racism is when your peers assume that you are a transfer student. Racism is when your peers tell you “you don’t sound black” or “he’s not like the rest of them.” Racism is a fraternity house proudly displaying the confederate battle flag and calling it “heritage.” Racism is a fraternity that flies a flag reading “Do Not Tread On Me” after shouting racial slurs.
Racism is when your school tries to rewrite your history in order to downplay the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow. Racism is when a Supreme Court Justice tries to intellectually justify why Black students are academically inferior. Racism is shouting racial slurs from your property, regardless of whether or not, your fraternity leadership was “complicit.”
Do you know what it feels like to constantly have to justify your place on this campus? You will never realize the importance of diversity until you’re in the minority. You will never realize the importance of inclusion until you’ve been left to navigate Georgia Tech by yourself.
The silent demonstration outside of Phi Delta Theta last August was not just in response to the incident at Phi Delta. It was a response to the larger context of marginalization and exclusion that permitted that injustice to occur. Students are angry and rightfully so, because things like this happen every day at Georgia Tech.