im mad I had a dream about the pink remy hair
it’s calling out to me in a real serious way
im mad I had a dream about the pink remy hair
its cuz youre going to see the white D. that shit is like amphetamines and heroin it does things to the body mind and soul
you me and kia need to write like a field guide to the white d. its natural habitat. precautions to take. how to navigate the territory that is the elusive white d.
Diamond, after replying to my text
I just burst out laughing
“this is worse than doctor who at least there im just squirming from suspense now im squirming for jesus”
“i need to get baptized again”
update: someone did something so racist that diamond just ran laps and then threw herself on the ground
On Tuesday, February 12, Illinois State University students received the following crime alert: “Person with weapon last seen near Watterson Towers. Be alert, do NOT approach, and seek shelter. Suspect is a Nathan Thomas, described as a black male, approximately 6 feet 1 inch tall with dreadlocks. Last seen wearing a white hat, a black coat with red and black stripes on the waist and wrists, and baggy pants.”
In my mind, I thought that this seemed oddly specific for a crime alert; I can’t remember another time in the last three years that the subject of an alert was named, let alone described in such detail – or that it’s resulted in a campus-wide lockdown.
In my gut, however, I first felt that something just wasn’t right – and immediately afterwards felt this horrible pang of concern for every black student on campus, especially male, who might suffer some terrible racist backlash the way American Muslims did after the September 11 attacks. This feeling was echoed by other Illinois State students, including freshman biology major Diamond Frison.
“When I first heard the crime alert, I was shocked like anyone else,” Frison said. “But then I realized that since Nathan Thomas was black I felt that people would look at me and other black students differently.
“Being a POC [person of color] on campus is already awkward because you never know if or when someone will say something microaggressive or problematic, but then having a POC included in the crime alert made me almost expect for people to say negative and problematic things regarding his race.”
I had thought it was suspicious that they somehow managed to have an entire physical description and name of a suspect but no information about what kind of weapon he supposedly had; I joked that there was a big difference between whether he had a knife or a bazooka.
The entire time I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that nobody ever saw a weapon and that this was a gross instance of racial profiling, but I didn’t want to believe it. Until, of course, we got the update on the situation.
“ISU police say there was no weapon involved in an incident between a Chicago man and an Illinois State student earlier today,” the Illinois State University Facebook page posted. A follow-up by the Chicago Tribune explained that “[a]lthough an alert was issued saying the man was believed to have a weapon, police later determined that the woman told police he had a weapon because she feared he had access to one, but never saw one, police said in a statement this evening.”
ISU Spokesman Jay Groves said that the woman called her boyfriend and told him that Thomas had a gun, leading the boyfriend to file a false police report that resulted in a campus-wide weapons lockdown.
In essence, somebody’s unfounded fear that a black man from Chicago might have access to a weapon snowballed into a safety and security emergency for every residence hall and classroom. This was unsurprising, but I still wanted to believe deep down that we could make it halfway through Black History Month without something horribly racist happening. I decided to give everybody involved the benefit of the doubt.
And then I logged into Twitter.
Moments after the crime alert went out, #ReasonsNathanThomasIsMad started trending with Illinois State students.
If you somehow manage to ignore the fact that turning a campus lockdown into a Twitter trending topic is completely horrid, some of them were funny: tweets like “#ReasonsNathanThomasIsMad he can’t connect to resnet,” “#ReasonsNathanThomasIsMad someone pressed A on the elevator at watty,” and “#ReasonsNathanThomasIsMad he couldn’t think of a new iCampus password” expressed lighthearted Redbird in-jokes that were relatable and helped lighten the mood during an otherwise frightening time.
Unfortunately, a large number of the tweets were incredibly stereotypical and racist.
Kevin O’Connor, @Mundelein_OC tweeted “#ReasonsNathanThomasIsMad Watterson ran out of chicken, watermelon, and grape drink.”
Sophomore @TylerEvanDavis tweeted, “#ReasonsNathanThomasIsMad His dreads was nappy.”
Brad Ure, @theuress tweeted “#ReasonsNathanThomasIsMad 707 was out of king cobra.”
There were many more along these same lines. Some Illinois State students who were disgusted with the racism coming from their peers replied to these tweets and explained that they were stereotypical, racist, and hurtful. The responses ranged from the occasional apology, to dismissal, to flat-out attacks.
After junior Kyle Werth (@_RosaRugosa) tweeted a continuous stream of racist responses, including “#ReasonsNathanThomasIsMad Al Bowman wouldn’t cater La Bamba to his Roscoe Jenkins themed quinceañera for his lil cuz and Auntie Shakwanzaa” and “Obama isn’t a dark enough hue of brown,” Frison replied and informed him that what he was saying was racist, offensive and hurtful.
Werth replied, “I dont remember axe’in u a god-damn thing u lil sierra leone diamond in the shadow of a dark desert highway.”
Frison said that her brief interactions with him had a definite negative impact on her attitudes towards the climate of campus.
“I basically felt that he was belittling me to fit his offensive caricature of a black woman, and that he was devaluing my worth as a person by telling me to get over his offensive racial comments,” Frison said. “It basically made me more distrustful of people on campus because him and so many others were being racist and microaggressive then dismissing people when they say it’s wrong.
“It made me feel like my voice won’t be heard or taken seriously on campus when I try to express my feelings on the microaggressions happening every day.”
Sophomore acting major Veronica Dembosz had a similar experience when trying to talk to the students publicly sending racist tweets.
“I guess what I’m most surprised by is the fact that I wasn’t surprised at all,” Dembosz said. “When I responded to the tweets individually, all I said was ‘this is racist’ or some variation of it. The responses I got were less than understanding; not a single person apologized or even asked me to explain.
“Most of the people responded with some variation of ‘I am not racist, and when I continued the discussion with them, eventually resorted to really nasty insults based on race. One student told me that I would get AIDS from sleeping with a black man – it just makes me curious, how long are we going to go on ignoring these racist ‘jokes’ when it’s clear that they are only one small instigation away from racist abuse?”
Many of the accounts sending these tweets are followed by the official @IllinoisStateU Twitter account. How did they not catch wind of it at any point?
After collecting information on the years and majors of the students sending the tweets, I noticed that a majority of them are underclassmen. What is Illinois State University doing to ensure that these students don’t leave with the same racist attitudes that they entered with, and to make campus safe for students of color?
Unless the administration takes bold steps to address the problems of racism on campus, there will continue to be plenty of #Reasons for students to be mad.