At Ole Miss, Black Students Remain Troubled by Recent Racist Incidents

The president of the Black Student Union at the University of Mississippi said much remains to be done to mend racial tensions.

Posted: 02/24/2014 04:04 PM EST

Three white freshmen at the University of Mississippi have been suspended by their fraternity’s national administration for hanging a noose on a statue of James Meredith, the first African-American student at Ole Miss.

However, there remains a sense of discontent on the campus of the university, with many Black students feeling bewildered and disappointed by recent racist activities at the school.

“Our students are definitely troubled by the experience,” said Quadray A. Kohlhiem, the president of the Black Student Union at the University of Mississippi, in an interview with BET.com.

“Black students from the University of Mississippi have the burden of defending this institution at a time at which they might not even feel that this is the right thing to do,” Kohlhiem said. “Students are asked why they would even want to attend a university like the University of Mississippi.”

He added: “They have to defend their choice to attend an institution that they have every right to attend. It is a burden that students at other universities may not understand, but our students are resilient. They are hopeful. They are strong. They are committed to catalyzing change and stifling hate.”

Shortly after the incident with the noose at the statue of Meredith, an African-American student said that she was the object of a racist incident. A white student in a truck with a group of others threw an alcoholic beverage at her while yelling racial epithets at her.

And that incident came after the incident during the 2012 election in which several hundred University of Mississippi students demonstrated – including shouting racist expressions – about African-Americans and, more specifically, President Obama.

The Sigma Phi Epsilon suspension comes as the three students face the possibility of criminal charges. Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating the event as a possible hate crime.

The university administration has condemned such incidents, including the recent one involving the statue. And Kohlhiem said that the Black Student Union is committed to working with the administration and faculty on strategies to address these incidents. However, he and other Black students remain highly troubled by these events.

“We recognize that there are people, like those who chose to participate in these most recent acts, that perceive our institution as a place where such behavior is tolerable,” he said.

“That is not something that the Black Student Union is willing to accept. We are encouraged by the opportunity to harness our hurt, concern, and passion in ways that keep our university moving forward toward a more inclusive, supportive and welcoming environment for all students.”

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

(Photo: Commercial Appeal/Dave Darnell/Landov)

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