Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
As issues surrounding minorities and racism continue to skyrocket, heated conflicts are quickly cropping up in a surprising place: college. Once deemed a safe space to get an education and catapult your career, campuses across the country are quickly becoming racial targets with people of color standing in the bull's-eye.
Geovanni Cuevas, a Dartmouth student, was assaulted on November 13 during the annual Latinx Ivy League Conference held at Brown University. A police officer initiated the incident and an email described it as "heated and physical." While an investigation is currently under way to determine if the altercation was racially charged, all signs point to this being the case. Cuevas was waiting to enter a house party when he vocalized his concern for the treatment of a Brown student, who was allegedly inebriated, at the hands of a police. As he criticized the officer, he was told not to go in — Cuevas resisted and things took off. Ironically, the Latinx conference discusses gender, socio-economic issues, and — you guessed it — race.
We understand how this can go both ways — if a cop tells you not to do something, we've been raised to listen and abide. However, with the Sandra Bland and Eric Garner cases still weighing heavily on the country's conscience, law enforcement has begun to lose credibility when it comes to its ability to do authentic work without racial motive, and more and more people are challenging its ethics. There is turbulence when it comes to relationships between everyday citizens and the police — Cuevas was using his freedom of speech to call out someone in power, unsoundly wielding it against another student of color.
Brown University's president is calling for an investigation of the incident, as well as frequent meetings on racial issues. But is that enough? Just recently, the former president of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, had promised a similar plan of action when he said "change is needed." However, his tolerance of the racial injustice on his campus led to a boycott that ultimately ended with him stepping down. While his resignation seems like a win to the students that stressed Wolfe's "negligence toward marginalized students' experience," they are also the people who are now feeling the brunt of this situation.
Black students at Mizzou have been met with terrorist threats and messages on Yik Yak that reportedly read, "I’m gonna shoot any black people tomorrow, so be ready.” Even though the university's online emergency information center released a statement reassuring students and faculty that they had arrested the suspect behind the threatening message, the school's Twitter account read, "There is no immediate threat to campus. Please do not spread rumors and follow @MUAlert at mualert.missouri.edu for updates." With a message that dismisses students' legitimate fear, it comes as no surprise that the University of Missouri is subtly tolerating these kinds of acts.
If situations like Cuevas's and Mizzou's continue to take place, how will students of color feel safe? In an effort to have access to an education similar to that of their peers of privilege, they are forced to choose between the pursuit of higher learning and safety of life. As people in power bypass legal action, minorities will continue to suffer in an environment they were meant to thrive in.