What is Xavier’s message, really?

What message does Xavier University want to send to its Black students? Is it one promoting Jesuit values and empathy? If so, why has that not been felt by Black students? The message echoing in the ears of many Black students is that the university does not sufficiently support them. This sentiment is a culmination of the school’s inability to implement anti-racist measures, measures that the Black Student Association (BSA) suggested in the 1990s and have yet to come to fruition. 

It is glaringly apparent that our school has not used its resources to promote its Black students’ wellbeing, and this weekend only highlighted that. As many of you know, a horrendous event occurred over the weekend that was inherently racist and holds insidious implications for all students.

It is best to examine this event using the iceberg analogy. Simply put, the tip of the iceberg is the most apparent and identifiable feature, while its actual size remains unknown. The tip of the iceberg in this situation was the desecration and vandalism of Xavier’s campus. 

The sole purpose of plastering their White Supremacist paraphernalia on campus and destroying the “Black Lives Matter” sign was to strike fear in the hearts of Black students, staff and faculty. This is a prime example of overt racism, which is easy to spot and condemn. Unsurprisingly, Father Michael Graham, president, publicized a statement doing so. While the statement was good, it was just that — a statement. At this point, it is routine to be provided with a carefully-crafted statement condemning bigotry and promising a brighter future. However, that is not enough, has not been enough nor will it be sufficient from this moment forward.

Continuing the iceberg analogy, we must plunge into the frigid depths that house the primordial body that is racism and explore its implications for this campus. Diving into the depths entails a thorough examination of what went wrong over the weekend, Xavier’s checkered past and what must be done about the future. Although each of the subjects mentioned above deserves a dedicated essay, this statement’s remainder will primarily address last weekend. This past weekend highlighted a lack of safety and student distrust of XUPD. Regarding protection, Xavier lacks necessary safety measures that could have thwarted and or aided in apprehending the guilty party. Merely having cameras throughout campus would be a starting point in addressing safety concerns.

Given the police’s intensely-racist history against Black people, it is important to note that a lot of Black people only turn to the law when in dire circumstances and/or feel their life is threatened. In this case, a Black student felt that their life and others’ lives might be at risk. To be responsible, they contacted XUPD and were met with inaction. Only after several students filed complaints to the Bias Action Response Team were the bigoted stickers removed, and XUPD patrolled the campus. It is not far fetched to believe that the persons whose actions marred our campus could inflict physical harm on Black students. This threat of physical violence is evidenced by the contents of their manifesto and news footage from the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. In a moment of crisis, this begs the question: are XUPD officers capable of reacting in a timely and necessary fashion? Their initial inaction was profoundly concerning and gives credence to the skepticism and lack oftrust that students feel toward XUPD. Sadly, there are many negative experiences Black students endured at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. Over the weekend, the events that transpired are emblematic of the overtly and covertly racist history of this campus. It’s yet another gnarled and twisted chapter in this school’s storied history. Despite that, Xavier  still has an opportunity to prove to its Black students that their lives matter — not in some abstract fantasy, but in unabashed, actionable ways because the university has the resources to act. Finally, to all our Black sisters, brothers and everyone in between: we love you, we are here for you and we will not rest until this university shows through actions that Black Lives Matter.