Lawrence Ross at his book signing after his lecture on Feb. 24. | Photo by Benjamin Zawilski

Ross Discusses Evolution of Racism in College

Bestselling author Lawrence Ross calls for more than just black best friends
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Bestselling author Lawrence Ross calls for more than just black best friends

The two-hour lecture started with Lawrence Ross giving his own rendition of a song centered on the N-word, originally sung by two University of Oklahoma students on a bus in 2015. The song served as an example for the hundreds of activities at universities that continue to perpetuate racism.

Ross has visited several college campuses to give his lecture on campus racism and how it takes different forms. His book, “Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses,” is meant to address the history of racism at colleges in the United States and to educate its readers on how to best combat it.

Ross’s book was published in 2015, when incidents of hate crimes, vandalism and enforcement of outdated values in educational institutions began rising in alarming numbers. The most infamous instance in recent years was when nooses were found in trees on the American University campus in Washington D.C. and racial slurs were found written on a dormitory door at Cabrini University.

Ross centered his discussion on stories of blackface, nooses placed in trees and songs prominently featuring the derogatory N-word, which helped convey how widespread a problem it’s become.

In research for his book, Ross identified the lack of proactivity on the part of college administrations as one of the ways campuses are complicit in racism.

“Campus racism incidents are happening on a regular base. For colleges and universities before you can be healthy, the first step is to recognize that you’re sick.”

Lawrence Ross

“A lot of the time, it’s the institution not knowing what to do,” Ross said in an exclusive interview with The Lumberjack. “So the easiest thing to do is to deal with the PR slam, wait for the four-year cohort of students to leave and then it’ll be alright. And then you’ll have another four years, do the same thing and something else will erupt.”

One of the major points in Ross’s lecture is how racism on college campuses isn’t limited to any specific areas of the country or to any parts of a school year. It happens everywhere.

“Campus racism incidents are happening on a regular base,” Ross said. “For colleges and universities before you can be healthy, the first step is to recognize that you’re sick.”

Ross explained how schools are more likely to try to minimize racist incidents and avoid bad press than they are to directly acknowledge its existence. As Ross pointed out, this procedure leads students to believe that their concerns aren’t heard and aren’t recognized. This manifests into praying for change without acting and trying to individualize systemic problems.

Ross placed responsibility on college administration to think critically about race relations and to communicate with students to achieve progress in cultivating an environment of discussion.

“Come onto campus and recognize everyone,” Ross said. “Then be able to think beyond your own sense of who you are. Pray on it, but at the same time, work on it.”

In the last five years since the book was published, Ross said over 300 campus protests against racism have occurred in the U.S. Ross believes this goes beyond exercising free speech and serves as proof that students expressing racist views do not face repercussions.

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