Reading several posts about the goings on at the University of Missouri and other institutions around the US has reminded me of the terror which anonymity can strike with. That terror is why many consider the Ku Klux Klang a terror organization. So what are the media which it appears today and challenges us?
This comes about on the heels of the resignation of top administrative officials in the face of student protests at Missouri (the president’s resignation speech was bad enough in itself, read here). There have been several sites tracking threats and increasing tensions on the campus. Administration seems to think their campuses are very accepting and inclusive but as Jess points out in her blog, a few minutes on just about any campus Yik Yak will reveal a rather harsh reality.
For those who may be unaware, Yik Yak is a popular social sharing system where individuals post a line with the goal to be to get up votes. The app is location bound (students log in to their campus to post) and more than that, these posts are anonymous. This of course leads me to two different concerns. First, for those who claim that racism in more blatant forms no longer exists, Yik Yak rather vehemently disagrees based on the posts showing up. Second, if you are unwilling to have your name connected to a thought, what does that say about your thought and your actual belief in it.
Time and again, individuals state that they are not racist. Yet somewhere and somehow these posts continue and regularly appear. The anonymity of Yik Yak is what truly makes this terrifying to me. The anonymity is a problem in this particular case for the very fact that it creates a society where these sort of statements can appear in such an open and available forum and the president can still act as if his campus does not have these issues. The anonymity, the unchallenged nature of these events are why they stand out as terrible. They make us all the monsters,
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people”
-Martin Luther King Jr
I would like to offer a HUGE disclaimer: this is not a unique situation to Mizzou. It is not unique to State colleges or even research institutions. If you think your institution is immune or that it doesn’t happen at your school, consider what has happened to Mr. Wolfe.
But here is the upside – being on the outside of what has happened at a particular institution allows the proactive professionals to step up and note these issues and to address them now. Not later. Not a month after the issue is brought to you personally. Now.