Teens from Dallas Were Asked About Confederate Flag Earrings, Called 'N Word' Racial Slur During Tour of Campus
In yet another bitter reminder that racism is alive and well on college campuses in the South, white students at Texas A&M University reportedly taunted and harassed a group of black high school juniors who were touring the campus in College Station on Tuesday.
The incident began when a white woman approached two of the visitors from Uplift Hampton Preparatory in Dallas — a charter school that helps economically disadvantaged students get into college — and asked what they thought of her Confederate flag earrings, according to an account from Democratic state Sen. Royce West, whose district includes the high school.
Then, white male and female students from Texas A&M began taunting the group of 60 visitors from Uplift Preparatory, telling them to "go back where you came from" and "using the most well-known racial slur that's directed toward African Americans," West said.
Texas A&M officials who were escorting the visitors witnessed the incident and called campus police. An officer who responded initially said the A&M students were merely exercising their First Amendment rights, but police eventually took a report.
.@TAMU police department refuses to release the report its officer took about the students using racist slurs against Dallas high schoolers.— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) February 11, 2016
"It’s 2016 and within months of other race-related events that have taken place on college campuses in Oklahoma, Missouri and elsewhere nationally," Sen. West said in a statement, adding that the incidents have all been triggered by "a climate of racially tinged conflict and other acts of intolerance."
"These discussions related to the Confederate flag began last summer following the massacre of innocent worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina church. Yet there are those who still defend Confederate symbols and ideologies," West wrote. "I expect a response that is swift and similar to those taken at the University of Oklahoma. The students responsible for these reprehensible actions should be strongly disciplined, if not expelled."
In a letter to the Texas A&M community, school President Michael Young said he was "outraged and tremendously disappointed" by the incident, adding that it will be investigated "to the fullest extent possible and appropriate action will be taken." Young also said Texas A&M administrators and students later met with the visitors from Uplift Prep to assure them they are welcomed and respected by "the vast majority" of people at the university.
"While the actions of a few certainly do not represent our institution as a whole, it is the responsibility of all of us to stop any incidents that could be considered hateful or biased — based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other factor," Young wrote.
In an example of the systemic racism that still exists, some have pushed back, trying to claim it didn't happen, despite witnesses, or that it shouldn't be addressed.
Uplift Hampton Prep CEO Yasmin Bhatia said the school will continue to send tour groups to Texas A&M, according to The Texas Tribune. Many Uplift students are the first in their families to have an opportunity to attend college, and campus tours are their first encounters with universities.
"We are proud of our scholars for the grace and composure with which they responded to the college students who chose to engage in a disrespectful and unacceptable manner," Bhatia said.
In its 2016 college rankings, The Princeton Review ranked Texas A&M University fourth in the nation for "Most Conservative Students," 14th for "Most Religious Students," and 13th for "LGBTQ-Unfriendly."
The Texas A&M student body is just 3 percent black, the lowest percentage among 15 public and private universities in the state, according to the National Center for Education statistics.
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