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Demanding justice

A racist, misogynistic message on a residence hall door sparks call to action, community support


Detroit sophomores Yasmeen Duncan and Rebecca Rose watch people speak during the CMU chapter of the NAACP's protest of a racist event that happened Nov. 7 in Sweeney Hall. 

NAACP chapter President Australyah Coleman made four demands to Central Michigan University in response to the racist messages left on a whiteboard outside a dorm room in Sweeney Hall. 

First, she demanded each CMU student be required to take a cultural course pertaining to their major or minor. Next, Coleman urged that cameras be placed and used in hallways of residence halls. She later demanded that a certified third party host a race and ethnicity training that would be mandatory for all faculty, staff, students and police. 

“We expect these plans to be met or initiated within the next month,” Coleman said. She received a swarm of cheers from the crowd of about 200 people. 

Her last demand was specific.

Coleman demanded a public apology from the officer that responded to the incident in Sweeney Hall on the night of Nov. 7 by the end of the week — giving the officer a three-day period to apologize for comparing the racist act witnessed to what officers experience every day. 

“Of course, the officer we spoke to compared the hate of his badge to our blackness,” Coleman said. “We will not be silenced.” 

This demand drew the largest cheer from the crowd. The protest came after three CMU students found a racist message written on a whiteboard outside of her room Wednesday. Detroit sophomore Yasmeen Duncan took a photo of the message on the whiteboard and alerted her roommates. They alerted the residence hall director and the police about what had happened. 

The message on the whiteboard read: “fuck u monkey black whores.”

“If the demands are not met by the time this was given, we will have more protests and rallies and will do whatever it takes to get our demands met,” Coleman said. 

CMU President Robert Davies released a statement on the incident in Sweeney Hall at 11:45 a.m. 

“I assure you racism, misogyny, bigotry and hatred will not be tolerated on this campus,” the statement said. Davies repeated this statement while speaking at the rally. 

Davies also responded to the activist groups’ demands. 

“The demands that I heard are reasonable, they’re actually ones that we’ve been working on,” Davies told Central Michigan Life. “It is important that we do have curricular components to all the majors that support diversity and inclusion.” 

The Central Michigan University chapter of the NAACP, Black Student Union and CACU organized a protest in support of the individuals affected. 

“We (at the NAACP) saw a problem and knew we had to come up with a solution,” NAACP Student Government Association Representative Patrick Riley said. “Sadly, it had to come from this, but I think it’s important that moving forward we come together as a student body -- not as white CMU, black CMU or multicultural CMU -- we come together as a student body and we work toward making change.” 

The rally opened with Black Student Union President Monet Robinson clarifying that the event was a peaceful protest. 

“We need to be able to express ourselves and be heard in the correct way so that we can reach out further,” Robinson said.

Sterling Heights junior Alysha Lewis also said the demands were reasonable, should be met and can be met.

“Change needs to come to CMU’s campus,” she said. “I hope that justice gets served for the women that this happened to.”

About 200 people assembled to show their support for those affected, even when the event was organized just hours before.

“It’s super heartwarming and welcoming,” Rose said. “I’m so glad that so many people showed up so that I don’t feel like I’m alone in this. The community is here to be with me through this, move forward and not let this be something that happened and let it die in the past.”

The whiteboard incident is not the first of its type on CMU's campus.

“(Duncan and Rose) are not the only ones who have been through this before,” NAACP Adviser Elayashia Kendall said. “It’s sad that it had to take six or seven incidents for it to be publicized instead of the first time something like this happened.”

The Nov. 7 event fostered disappointment and frustration within the community, but the Nov. 8 rally aimed to inspire hope and change.

“Tonight proves to the naysayers that we are a community,” said Multicultural Academic Student Services Adviser Jonathan Glenn. “If you look around, there are different types and shades of people here, but everyone is smiling. Something horrible happened last night, but we’re smiling and that proves love always trumps hate.”