Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What it's like to be the target of racism on campus

Taylor Dumpson was elated. On May 1, she became student government president at American University -- the first African-American woman ever to hold the job.

But less then 24 hours after she officially took office, her joy turned to pain. Dumpson got a message from a friend as she was on her way to campus. Bananas had been found hanging from nooses at three different spots on campus, her friend said.

One had the words "Harambe bait" scrawled on it, after the gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo for dragging a child who fell into his enclosure.

Another was marked with the initials of the historically black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, of which Dumpson is a member.

The discovery shook her to her core. The nooses were a clear reference to lynching, Dumpson said, the bananas a play on the racist trope that African-Americans are monkeys.

"I think the message that they were trying to send is, I shouldn't be in the position I am," she said.

At first, Dumpson said, being targeted left her feeling numb. "It's just overwhelming," she said. "I didn't see this coming. But now I am here. And I haven't had time to just stop ... I still have to lead."

What happened at American University isn't an isolated incident. So far over the course of the 2016-2017 school year, there have been at least 153 racist incidents on 108 campuses across 34 states, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Read more: What it's like to be the target of racism on campus

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