On a campus that prides itself on Southern hospitality and a welcoming gameday atmosphere, racism in the form of unsportsmanlike behavior plagued The Plains when Auburn Football played Alabama State University, a historically black institution, last Saturday.
The actions of students and members of the Auburn community demeaned not only Alabama State’s football team, but their students and university as a whole.
Fights broke out in the student section.
Fans rolled the Oaks at Toomer’s corner before halftime.
Fraternities hung banners outside of their houses.
While some of those issues are fairly common, and it’s not unusual to see fraternities hang gameday banners with smack talk, the message on last weekend’s banners had stark racial overtones.
A banner that hung outside of the Sigma Pi house read, “ASU GRAD RATE 27% - CHANCE OF WINNING 0%.” Phi Sigma Kappa hung a banner that read, “G.E.D. > A.S.U. DEGREE.”
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Old Row Auburn’s Instagram account, “oldrowwareagle,” uploaded a video of black people dancing in celebration in front of Pieology on the corner of South College and Magnolia. Comments on the video read, “Black at it,” “Hood row” and “Getting hyped to shoot up McDonalds.”
Comments left by readers on Facebook under The Plainsman’s second article about Sunday’s shooting ostensibly blamed the shooting on Auburn hosting a “diversity weekend.”
“And Another ‘diversity weekend’ draws to a close,” the comment, which we removed, read.
Because Auburn played a local HBCU during Black Alumni Weekend — an event that was derided by some Auburn students and alumni on the Alumni Center’s Facebook Page — there is no denying that these comments and the actions that accompanied them were racially motivated.
To be clear, these actions and comments are symptomatic of a larger, pervasive issue within the Auburn community — an often blatant disregard for the humanity of minority individuals.
This is not the first time racism has reared its head on Auburn’s campus.
In the spring of 2017, Richard Spencer, a notable white supremacist, came to campus accompanied by a number of supporters from within the Auburn community.
The University condemned the gathering and attempted to stop it.
And around the same time, the first iteration of the so-called Auburn White Student Union formed.
Each of the actions over the weekend in and of themselves are racialized due to the people the messages were directed toward, for the actors and the victims cannot be separated from their skin.
The fight involved a single black man and two white men. While perhaps not racially motivated at its outset, the fight quickly became racialized after the fact in comments on social media where the video of the fight was posted.
Students prematurely rolled the trees and members of fraternities hung the racist banners as a result of a pre-existing disrespect for HBCUs and those who attend them.
The comments on Old Row Auburn’s Instagram post and our own Facebook post drawing an unfounded connection between black people and the McDonalds shooters present black individuals in Auburn as a monolithic entity, thus erasing the individual identities and humanity of black people as a whole.
Though the campus community cannot be blamed for the actions of a few, we should all take ownership of those within our community and speak out to prevent future recurrences.
Although we boast of Auburn students, fans and community members being part of a family, our family not only demeaned another university, but we ostracized our own members.
Our family let students get away with these actions.
It took more than one person to hang those banners, more than one person to roll Toomer’s corner before the game’s end and more than one person to participate in blatantly racist and disgusting commentary on social media.
There is no point in the university skirting around these acts. There is no use in feigning ignorance. There is no other alternative but to address these issues, punish those who participated and learn from this experience.
Auburn has taken a firm stance against injustice before. And most people in our community are good, decent individuals. But now is the time to continue a new Auburn tradition of being on the side of diversity, inclusion and humanity.
Auburn will not tolerate any form of racism or hate speech on campus.
This must end now.
If Auburn truly cares about every member of its family, something must be done.
We hold Auburn to a higher standard. We hold Auburn students to a higher standard.
We expect Auburn to embody a “spirit that is not afraid” to speak out against injustice, to protect the rights of all and to “cultivate sympathy with their fellow men and women.”
For every member of the Auburn Family and visiting fan to feel welcome on this campus, Auburn must move to uphold its professed inclusivity and sense of family.
Editor's note: We added a one-sentence clarification when discussing the fight in Jordan-Hare Stadium. We did not intend to imply — nor do we believe we did — that the fight began with racist motivations, instead we intended to convey the fight was racialized after the fact.
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