Attire, silence start protest against hate

Robert Samuels

Wearing black clothing and keeping their lips sealed, minority students at Northwestern engaged in the first of two demonstrations Tuesday to show students, faculty and administrators that they will no longer tolerate bigotry on campus.

But the protest received mixed reactions.

Several cultural group leaders and concerned students encouraged those who consider themselves minorities to wear black garb and remain silent Tuesday in response to the 10 racial and religious incidents at NU since January. Organizers requested that students of all ethnicities wear black today and then trade the dark colors for NU apparel to attend a 5 p.m. rally at The Rock, where administrators and students will gather to speak out against hate.

Ronnie Rios, one of the protests’ main planners, said she was surprised to see such a large number of people dressed in dark clothing Tuesday. The campus atmosphere was considerably “more solemn” than usual, she said.

“I keep seeing more and more people wearing black,” said Rios, a Weinberg senior. “I think the campus is really getting the message.”

Tuesday’s demonstration was intended to show the larger community what campus life would be like without a minority perspective, Rios said. Some students who took the vow of silence during class said the act showed the importance of having divers voices in class.

Esther Young said she sat through her African-American literature class gritting her teeth as theprofessor tried to initiate discussion about the

Harlem renaissance. About a third of her class also refused to speak, the Weinberg senior added.

“The professor had to answer his own questions,” Young said. “I’m not sure what the nonminority students thought, but it made me think, ‘If minorities weren’t here, would these classes even be here?'”

Even in a class where students do not participate, sociology Prof. Charles Moskos said students’ visual demonstration was effective.

“You can’t avoid noticing that a number of students were upset,” said Moskos, after his 600-person introduction to sociology class Tuesday afternoon. “It’s an excellent idea.”

Still, other students said they thought having minority students wear black defeated the demonstration’s purpose, which was to unite the campus against hatred. For Amanda Dunlap, who is white, the protest only further polarized the campus.

“It’s trying to make it seem like I’m less affected because I’m less of a minority,” said Dunlap, a Communication sophomore. “It’s an all-campus issue and we should make clear that we’re all unified in this struggle.”

Although the demonstration showed that minority students stood together against the string of hate crimes and incidents of bias, Steve Gensler said he questioned the need for protesting the issue.

“Drawing more attention to everything that’s happened exacerbates the problem,” said Steve Gensler, a Communication senior. “But I know I wouldn’t have talked about (the incidents) unless (the demonstration) happened, so I guess that’s a good thing.”

The demonstrations will end today with a rally at The Rock. Rumors circulated among event organizers that a neo-Nazi party called administrative offices at Norris University Center to request speaking time for the event. At least two students came to the administrative office to verify the group actually had called about the rally, according to Helen Wood, associate director of Norris.

Wood said she told the students that the office had not received any calls from the organization.

“We only heard about the news after two students came in asking what was wrong,” Wood said.

University officials have requested 12 additional police officers to attend the rally to ensure safety. If white supremacists show up at the rally, they will be immediately escorted off campus, student group leaders said.