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Black Lives Matter protest sparks conversation about on-campus racism

The Black Lives Matter rally held Wednesday has sparked an online conversation about racial issues on campus, involving the University of Miami’s Black student population, opponents of the protestors and even President Donna E. Shalala.

The demonstration included a ‘die-in,’ in which students dropped to the ground in unison to represent lives lost to police brutality, and a march around campus in protest of the grand jury decision not to charge Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown.

SEE ALSO: Dramatic ‘Black Lives Matter’ demonstration gives voice to voiceless

During and after the event, racist comments were posted on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak and other online outlets. (See screenshots attached in the embedded Tweets below.)

Shalala sent a university-wide Dialogue email Friday in response to comments like these, saying that “all members of the community have the right to respond and share their thoughts and beliefs.”

“Respectful dialogue, even between opposing sides of the same issue, remains an expectation at the University of Miami,” Shalala added.

President Shalala's Dialogue email sent Friday.

President Shalala’s Dialogue email sent Friday.

Junior Rhyssa Beckford, who was a participant in the Black Lives Matter event, originally reached out to Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely about the issue Thursday, hoping for a university-wide email to be sent out that would discourage this behavior. 

President Shalala then responded to Beckford with her own email, expressing her support of the demonstration and “outrage” at the detractors. (Whitely was out of town.) Beckford posted a screenshot of Shalala’s email on Facebook.

Shalala's response. // Screenshot courtesy Beckford

Shalala’s response. // Screenshot courtesy Beckford via Facebook

Soon after the Dialogue email was sent Friday, Beckford expressed her dissatisfaction with the administration’s response on Facebook.

Rhyssa Beckford's response. // Screenshot courtesy Beckford via Facebook

Rhyssa Beckford’s Facebook post. // Screenshot courtesy Beckford via Facebook

Beckford also wrote that the email was “sugar coated” and “didn’t truly address intolerance” in a Facebook message to The Miami Hurricane.

Some students also posted anonymous reactions to the UMiami Secrets Facebook page, arguing that the protest was an ineffective way to go about asking for change and that “lives matter as a whole, not just black lives.” This also led to discussion online. The comments can be seen in the embedded posts.

While the topic has angered many, sophomore Andrea Vorlicek urged her peers on Facebook not to let the opinions of a few taint their perspectives of the whole.

Vorlicek, who also participated in the march, wrote that the Black population at UM should not focus on the comments on Yik Yak and other social media outlets. Instead, she hopes that her peers work to educate others who are not aware of the prejudices that exist, in order to create a better on-campus environment.

image1

Vorlicek’s Facebook post. // Screenshot courtesy Vorlicek via Facebook

 

Featured image courtesy The All-Nite Images via Flickr.

December 5, 2014

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Lyssa Goldberg

Lyssa Goldberg is online editor of The Miami Hurricane. She is a senior majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in math. She has interned at Mashable and the Miami New Times, and her work has also been featured in The Huffington Post.


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.