Mocking “Welcome White Week” fliers were posted next to “Welcome Black Week” ones around the Northern Kentucky University this week, instigating an investigation and a protest against racial discrimination on the campus.
“Welcome Black Week” is a week-long event introducing freshmen to organizations and programs focusing on the African-American experience and includes formal reception with African American Studies and Programs faculty and a Black Student Union BBQ. NKU is not the only university that hosts such an event; University of San Diego, Oklahoma State University and University of Colorado Boulder all include “Welcome Black Week” in their campus calendar.
Such events are important to black students who may feel out of place in a majority-white campus. They are also important in one another way: Some students allege the programs held at NKU are “whitewashed,” including the university's general Welcome Week.
James Johnson, a student at NKU, said “Welcome Black Week” was organized because black students “weren’t initially included in the festivities the university has.”
“It's still something that is a very big culture shock noticing there aren't that many of us minorities here on this campus,” said Trey Underwood, president of the African-American student organization Rocks.
The events can be attended by all students, not just black ones.
However, shortly after “Welcome Black Week” ended on Sept. 2, another unauthorized, almost-identical flier appeared on Sept. 6 — one in which the content was an apparent jab at the just-finished event.
The “Welcome White Week” fliers featured imaginary events around campus such as “White Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter,” “Pizza Party for Tolerance” and “L.G.B.T.Q.R.S.T.U.V. and You” in an obvious attempt to ridicule not just the black students, but also other minority groups on the campus.
In response to the derogatory messages in the fliers, a peaceful protest by at least 50 students was held Wednesday.
Students gathered to demonstrate against the 'White Lives Matter' poster hung next to 'Welcome Black Week.' pic.twitter.com/JwobxSNHKF— Abby Anstead (@AbbyAnstead) September 6, 2016
"You know you defeat ignorance with knowledge... And overall you defeat hate with love."— Abby Anstead (@AbbyAnstead) September 6, 2016
“The ignorance that stands on NKU’s campus is no longer acceptable. It’s starting to become deliberate. Just like this person who deliberately copied our flier,” Johnson, who is also the protest’s organizer said.
“We worked hard for Welcome Black Week in response to the lack of representation in the universal programs within Welcome Week,” he added. “The reason they did this was because we had Welcome Black Week. The reason we had Welcome Black Week was because we weren’t initially included in the festivities the university has.”
“I was just very shocked by the mockery that was made of us,” said student Sierra Longmire.
The students also spoke about their experience being a black student in a predominantly white university. One student said she had trouble finding partners for her chemistry class.
The university’s president, Geoffrey Mearns, thanked the protesters for their peaceful response to the fliers and for their “spirit of the conversation.”
NKU’s Twitter account said the fliers were unauthorized and the Student Affairs council will investigate who posted them.
Photo credit: Twitter/Abby Anstead