OPINION: Witch-hunting does nothing to stop racism on campus


A Kansas State student has once again made a tasteless joke on Snapchat, and I am once again disappointed in the response this incident has received from individuals in our student body.

As previously reported by the Collegian, freshman Sarah Harper and two of her friends took a Snapchat photo of themselves in white, hooded ponchos during weather delays at a home football game, claiming to be members of the “Kstate [sic] Kool Kids” in an attempt at humor. Their questionable spelling skills aside, the aftermath of this incident is a horrible example of how to combat racism at our university.

Most of the controversy started when the “KSU ‘21” group chat, home to approximately 300 K-State freshmen, was suddenly alerted to Harper’s joke in an aggressive display of condemnation. Every attempt by Harper to defend herself or apologize was shut down by accusations that grew louder and less patient. From there, Harper’s joke was spread around social media like wildfire.

I saw people crying for her expulsion and even looking up her address to publicly dox her personal information. It was like being in old Salem, Massachusetts, as a first-hand witness to a hysterical witch-hunting.

I’m unfortunately not exaggerating when I say that public humiliation was one of the worst ways possible to educate Harper on the errors of her ways.

Harper made a tasteless joke in public about domestic terrorists with a dark history of racial violence in the United States, and that’s absolutely unacceptable. But anyone who thought that a public shame-a-thon would help her realize her mistake and do better in the future is kidding themselves.

I will publicly admit that I have made many tasteless jokes in my past that I deeply regret. Most people probably have, in fact, but they kept their insensitivity outside of the public eye.

I’m much more considerate and “woke” today than I used to be, and it’s not because I got dragged through the mud by hundreds of angry voices telling me to leave and go somewhere else.

People who were older and wiser than me, some friends and some strangers, were kind and gentle enough to take me aside and explain why my worldview was flawed. Without the generosity of socially aware people, I would not be the person I am today.

What happened to Harper was not kind nor was it gentle. Witch hunts are cruel, malicious things perpetuated by people who would rather feel good about themselves for their “just actions” than help a flawed human being see the error of her ways.

News flash: People don’t change when they feel attacked. Harper did not learn that she should be more socially aware when she’s trying to be funny with her friends. What Harper learned was that she’s another victim of outrage culture and her attackers were unjustified fiends who wanted to see her suffer.

Harper left her sorority. She contemplated leaving the university. She was so distraught that she refused to do interviews and deleted her Facebook page. Thanks to this witch hunt, she’s learned nothing and lost everything.

Why did anyone feel the need to publicly shame Harper for her actions? Should we have even been mad at Harper, or should we be raising issues with an American education system that makes no effort to tell girls like her about how horrifying and real the racial violence of the Ku Klux Klan is?

I can’t believe I’m sympathetic toward a girl who made jokes about the KKK, but the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. There needed to be consequences, and she needed to be educated. But is this justice? Or is this just self-aggrandizing hypocrisy?

Any reasonable person who heard about this issue will see the witch-hunters as a radical mob that shouldn’t be listened to. The witch-hunters’ cruel efforts are making the idea that “racist jokes are bad” seem unreasonable. They are the definition of self-defeating.

I don’t know if Harper will ever read this. But if she does, I want her to know that I’ve also been in situations where I was ignorant and I made a despicable joke. People can change and see the errors of their ways through kindness. I know this because it happened to me, and I hope it happens to her too.

Kyle Hampel is a junior in English. 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.

Those words you just read were written by me, Kyle Hampel. I am a 2019 graduate in English. I have strong feelings about barbeque pizza and the Oxford comma. I am a former copy chief, community editor, feature editor, designer and deputy multimedia editor. Beloit, Kansas, is proud to call me their own, along with several other towns I've lived in that aren't as special to me.