Some students of color at Elon Univeristy wore all black Wednesday following a week of racial tension on campus.
“It shows we are here. It shows that we're here and that we're not going anywhere and it shows others who are in the fight with us and that we’re not alone." said Kenneth Brown Jr.
Student coordinator at the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education (CREDE) and special events coordinator of the Black Student Union, Kenneth Brown Jr.,helped organize the display after ENN broke the news that former president of the NC Mu chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, Owen Gaffney, used a racial slur towards a black student.
On Tuesday, in a different incident, a picture surfaced of a student standing on top of the stone plot for the Alpha Beta Beta chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, one of the black fraternities on campus.
“Just to see someone kind of disrespect your culture, I don’t know what was going through their head at the moment, but just to not think ... you know it hurts." said Brown
In an ENN interview with President Leo Lambert Wednesday, he explained that the Phi Beta Sigma is sacred ground and said he hopes the student who did this understood her actions.
"I don’t think that student understood the meaning of that place and that's kind of sacred ground," Lambert said. "When I saw that photograph, I thought 'How would you feel if somebody took a pose on your grandmother’s tombstone?' It's kind of the same thing. I think thats rooted in unawareness of what things mean, what symbols and places mean."
ENN spoke with the student in the photo over the phone. She said there was no intention to disrespect the black community, and thought that the plot was just a rock, not realizing the significance behind it.
But the community outreach chair for the Black Student Union, Lana Logan, explained that it’s time for students to stand up, regardless of the circumstances.
“How many more emails do they have to send out?" Logan said. "This is not an administration problem, this is a student and Elon culture problem.”
Logan says her experience as a black person at Elon has been vastly different than the experience of her white peers, especially this week.
“As a black student on this campus, I am always forced to be in a space that is not mine and white students don’t have to do that because this is a predominantly white institution," Logan said. "And so, what I think this is making black students feel like is we can’t have anything."
According to Brown, the path forward isn’t easy, but starting a dialogue among students is the first step.
“We need a true dialogue in order for us to truly understand each other," Brown said. "We have discussions and we have these events, but a lot of these events turn into people listening and responding or replying to what is said instead of listening and responding to understand each other."
Lambert also expressed his admiration and support for the Black Student Union's reaction to recent racial incidents.
"I’m really proud of the way BSU stood up and campus leaders that i like and admire like Tres McMichael and Kenneth Brown have responded and shown leadership," Lambert said. "And I think that’s a sign of a very strong community. It can't always be the president responding, it has to be each of us as students and faculty and staff responding as well."