Racial slur sparks conversation

Ryan Smith, senior film major from Round Rock, stands in front of Griffith Hall, where an incident involving a racial slur happened this week. Smith took to Twitter about the incident to demand accountability.

An incident involving a racial slur happened at Griffith Hall Thursday night, according to students who were involved. Ryan Smith, senior film major from Round Rock, said he was in his dorm when he heard someone barge into a neighbor’s room saying, “What’s up n***ers.”

Smith said he walked out of his dorm to see who said the word at about 10 p.m. In a video on his Twitter account, Smith said, “By reflex, I get up to see who said it. The hall was empty, so I knocked on the first door I see. Three white boys opened the door... I’m immediately asking, ‘Hey, did one of you guys just say what’s up and a racial slur?’ and the one at the door goes, ‘Uh, no,’ the one on the bed is like, ‘Uh, I didn’t hear anything,’ meanwhile, the one in the middle, he ain’t say nothing. He didn’t even deny it... I’m looking like, ‘What about you?’ so he goes, ‘Well what about what?’ he goes, ‘Oh nah man I didn’t say that’ but literally by the sound of his voice, I knew it was him already. It sounded just like him.”

Smith said he proceeded to question the students. According to Smith, the guys started making up stories, saying perhaps it was someone in the hallway.

“When I look him in the eyes, he kept denying, denying, denying. I looked him in the eyes like, ‘Okay, did you say it?’ he just freezes up and starts admitting, ‘I’m sorry man, I’m sorry man I didn’t mean it like that.’”

Smith said he asked the students why they lied, and they said it was shame and embarrassment. Smith said he then told the students to go in the room, and the video ends.

With over 7,000 views and 91 retweets, Smith said he believes the incident that happened in his dorm hall is part of a broader issue happening all over the world.

“When I confront somebody about that, the power is in my hands with it. Do I either prove them right and try to attack them or something like that? I know with some people, it can get physical or verbal. At the same time, the moment I get physical at an altercation, I put myself under the bus too because they’re not going to hear, ‘He said a racial slur’ they’re going to look at who was fighting and I can get kicked out of school. If I get kicked out of school, I’m basically letting them win in a way. I’m going to show you what I’m not. You may want to make fun of [the n-word] but I’m not going to go to your level,” Smith said.

“It’s been replaying in my head over and over again since last night. I genuinely wanted to figure out who said it at first. The power is on my side as far as telling my story. This isn’t me being kicked out of Griffith. This is me talking to you, in the right hands, instead of being the angry black person about a racial slur. If I react bad to this, then nothing gets done. Now that I’m sitting here being able to talk to you (the reporter) about it, I know I’m doing the right thing about it instead of going about it the angry way,” Smith said.

After the incident, Smith said he felt the need to go public with the situation by recording a video of himself talking about it.

“In this day and age, people got to know. People got to be held accountable about it. With the video, the more people see, the more people are going to be aware of it and join the stand against it. There’s been white people on Twitter siding, understanding, ‘I’ll stop saying that.’ People need to see what’s going on, what just happened, especially the black community at SFA. I feel that we need to come together more sometimes, especially with stuff like this. We have before, but we also need to continue,” Smith said.

Smith said that although the guy who said the word may be worried, actions come with consequences. “You have to understand closet racism is still racism. You see the black face recordings on Snapchat, you see people saying racial slurs on social media and quickly deleting it. I don’t really feel sorry for putting it online. If he sees it or if his parents see it, I don’t feel sorry. You’re saying a powerful racial slur, especially in today’s climate. You have to be held accountable for that. The more people know, I’m pretty sure the bigger regret you’re going to feel, and the bigger lesson you’re going to learn.”

Smith said that even if a white student had said been standing around, he should have called the guy out for saying the n-word.

Since the incident, Smith filed a report with his community assistants, but said he hasn’t heard feedback from the report. He said that his neighbors apologized to him for their friend’s use of the racial slur.

“He needs to be addressed, too. He needs to be spoken to by somebody in power to put him in a position to understand that this cannot be taken lightly. There definitely needs to be a consequence for it. Not only what’s been happening recently in the country, for you to go that far, it’s not even about saying it was a joke, because people can joke about mass shootings, but it’s not a joke to the families that have to bury their children. People can joke about people killing themselves, but it’s not a joke to somebody who has lost their child, brother or sister to suicide. It’s not a joke to black people when they hear that word, especially from a white person,” Smith said.

“When you hear it, call them out. Don’t turn a blind eye. Don’t turn on your deaf ears, because the more we allow, the more we keep tolerating it. You can’t complain about what you allow. You have to put people in their place about this type of stuff because it happens way too often. The more you stand up against it, it’ll get pushed down. Always say something. If they hear you say it, they think it’s okay,” he said.

The student who said the n-word agreed to an interview with The Pine Log.

“I would like to give my deepest regret for saying the word and I hope I really learned from this experience... It was a horrible mistake that I wish I could take back.

“It’s easier to say it within closed doors, within a bubble... If it’s out in the open, anyone can hear it and it can really hurt and bash people... It makes it rough for both sides. It brings more attention out. It doesn’t only hurt the African American community, but it normalizes the word even more and... it’s a very slippery slope. You don’t know how much traction it can gain, just like... any other saying that can gain traction for no reason.

“This is just opinion, but in your private home, you deserve to have that right to be able to express yourself in any way, shape or form, no matter how freaking horrible it is. I’m a Hebrew, but if a guy wants to... get swastika wallpaper all over his house, I’m not going to tell him he can’t do that.”

On Smith’s Twitter post, a student said, “My first day at SFA, a professor asked what I’d say if he called me a [n-word] just to make an example to the class of how open the conversation should be.”

Dr. Charles Abel, SFA political science professor, said that he encourages open discussion as a device to introduce the concept of political correctness. He said he only touches the subject if a student talks about it.

“The class tends to take that [conversation] over. I’ve never had the sense that the class didn’t want to have the discussion about it. I would not have the discussion if I got the fact that this was too offensive. I don’t mind having a discussion about sensitive issues, but if something so offensive, which the n-word is, I think, for historic reasons, I’d probably cut the class off.

“[The word] does not show respect to African Americans. It is a sign of disrespect to use that term for African Americans and we should understand that by now. I don’t care what your view is on political correctness. It clearly is disrespectful,” Abel said. “If I’m using that term about African Americans with you, I’m being disrespectful. Even though that may not hurt any African American, it’s the wrong thing to do... It doesn’t matter that I’m doing it in my group. It’s not the right thing to do. The problem is, I’m not teaching an ethics and morals class. I’m teaching a political science class. I wouldn’t use [the word] privately, and I don’t think anyone I know would.”

“ Historically, culturally, I don’t care about the logic of the word, the history of what it meant in Latin, any of that stuff. The cultural use of that word is historically in America is derogatory.”

The SFA Black Student Caucus president, Michaela Booker, senior political science major from Houston, said “It’s definitely a broader issue. We live in a country where the leader of the people spews hate, creates false narratives, and continues to belittle people, and there’s typically little to nothing done about it. The same goes for SFA but it’s typically done in the dark and systematically.

“I would love to be cliché and say that it starts by educating yourself but we are currently at a four-year university experiencing these things, so that just goes to show that no matter how much time you spend in a classroom doesn’t always matter. I don’t think it’s something that black students should be expected to fix cause we’re not the problem. The problem starts internally, and I think until people take being an ally seriously, nothing is going to change.”

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