OPINION: Racist jokes are not okay, students must lead by example


Like many of us, I have been following the recent stories about acts of hatred that have been going on at our school. Also like many of us, I’m angry and disappointed, but not just with those specific students. I’m disappointed with the fact that there are people around me who really don’t know better.

My grandma always told me that common sense is a gift and not everyone is blessed with it. Harsh? Maybe, but you get the point. Not everyone was raised to be considerate and think about the consequences of their actions.

So how can we show those who lack the ability to think before they act that their actions are hurtful without tearing them apart?

After the recent controversial Snapchat where two girls were captured wearing white rain hoods with the caption “Kstate [sic] Kool Kids,” I heard a common question way too many times: Why can’t we just let it go because it was a mistake?

My answer to those who ask that question: that type of thinking is what leads to divisiveness rather than a sense of community. Seeing acts of discrimination or ignorance like that and letting them slide shows the next person that it’s okay for them to do it too, that they can get away with it.

It shows students that it’s funny to degrade fellow students around them for their race or heritage. It also shows people who were affected by organizations like the Ku Klux Klan that we think their ancestors being hated and killed is just a joke.

That kind of attitude is what makes this situation a big deal. Why would you want to make your fellow students feel unsafe and unwanted?

It doesn’t matter if those students are young and don’t know what they’re doing, because that’s the problem. No one is teaching these college kids right from wrong. No one is showing them how to respect those around them.

In this situation, the public backlash is how they’ll learn. Even if they didn’t mean to offend anyone, they did, and they have to deal with consequences.

But I also don’t believe that the girls behind the KKK Snapchat should be torn apart and have their lives ridiculed to the extent that they have been. Isn’t that just repeating the hateful mindset all of us don’t want to see?

Point out what’s wrong with what they did. Leave comments about how that type of joke isn’t funny. But don’t stoop any lower. Don’t become hateful yourself and continue this horrible pattern of disrespecting each other.

There comes a point when we need to start doing more, not just ridiculing these students who sadly, honestly weren’t raised any better.

Our words are powerful. We need to stop perpetuating hate by hating, and instead teach others how and why that kind of behavior is wrong and how they can change it.

Joking about a racist organization isn’t funny, and that should have been something obvious to these fellow human beings, but it wasn’t. But that’s where our focus should be at.

I don’t know about you all, but I don’t want to see somebody get attacked on social media. I don’t want to see my friends get angry and hurt by acts like this. I want to see action. I want to see progress. I want to see respect.

Our school is amazing, it really is. So let’s show these students who don’t know any better how to act maturely and respectfully, and let’s create the change we want to see at Kansas State.

As former U.S. president Barack Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

We may not be able to change those students ourselves or get rid of hatred completely, but if we work on how we respond to hateful acts and be the role models we’d like others to be, then change might actually happen.

Emily Lenk is a senior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.