Incident prompts racism discussion

By Tatiana Lopez

After a racially charged incident at Trinity International University in Deerfield, some NIU community members are concerned a similar incidence could happen on any campus.

On April 21, 43 African American and Hispanic students were temporarily moved off campus to a nearby motel by school officials after three students had received death threats in the form of anonymous racist letters. Further investigation charged an African American student with fabricating the threats.

Despite the case being thought to be a hoax, the implied danger of the situation raises questions at universities nationwide, including NIU.

“There are racist people everywhere,” said April Macatangay, a senior art education major. “This is a pretty big campus, there’s got to be at least one racist around.”

The incident at Trinity International sparked an immediate response by authorities, who mobilized additional police units and security personnel with around-the-clock patrols scheduled to last until the end of the spring semester.

“When I was a student, I attended a school where something like this happened on campus,” said LaVerne Gyant, faculty member and director of the Center for Black Studies. “So I take that very seriously. There are people on that campus who are still getting hate mail to this day.”

Gyant also recalls a similar situation involving anonymous racist actions toward NIU’s Center for Black Studies.

“Earlier in my career here, we received two separate calls,” she said. “The police were able to trace the calls, but nothing really came of it.”

Some argue that though preventive measures can be done to reduce the amount of racism, heavily populated universities with diversity like NIU will always have racism to some degree.

“I think that would happen anywhere on any campus,” said Katie Kingsley, a senior general studies major. “That’s a serious issue.”

Kingsley, like other students, sees a social divide amongst students of differing ethnicities.

“I think that everybody’s just separated here,” Kingsley said. “I feel like the black folks stay with the black folks and the white folks stay with the white folks. You hang out with what you’re comfortable with. But, to each his own, I guess. Everybody’s different.”

Sylvia Fuentes, director of the University Resources for Latinos, said she thinks ignorance leads to unintentional racism.

“It comes from a lack of exposure and a lack of knowledge about anything outside of yourself,” she said.

The mood on campus seems to be that students and faculty feel generally safe at this school, and do not directly foresee any racially charged problems in NIU’s future.

“I couldn’t see anything like that happening here,” Macatangay said. “But you never know.”