Black Student Union holds open forum on race
Student leaders hope to continue conversation about race relations on campus
By Taylor Dixon
Franklin College’s Black Student Union held a virtual open forum Thursday night that continued their discussion on race relations, focusing on what it is like to be Black on campus.
The conversation was mediated by Hannah Adams Ingram, the union’s co-advisor and the college’s chaplain and director of religious life, and included about 15 members of BSU.
Junior Bennie Patterson said in the conversation there isn’t a place on campus where he feels he can have open conversations about race.
“Because when they talk about it, they are so guarded and defensive and not really focused on trying to understand, it’s more rebuttal,” he said. “So, I don’t really feel comfortable having those conversations with people who don’t look like me on campus.”
All of the BSU members encouraged the Franklin College community to be more open minded when talking about race relations. They also urged that the conversation about Black Lives Matter and the racial injustice happening across the country needs to continue.
“It’s important right now because a lot of people don’t want to have it,” Patterson said. “That’s why we have to keep talking about it because as soon as we stop, they’re going to act like it never happened and keep treating us badly.”
BSU President Alexis Cheatham went on to say that in classrooms she feels expected to talk in class when the topic of race is brought up. She recalled a that when she took an African American history class, she was only one of three Black students in the class. She said when the class started talking about slavery, for example, a lot of the predominantly white class looked to her for social commentary.
Other BSU members joined in to tell stories of times they felt discriminated against both in the Franklin community and at Franklin College.
Cheatham recalled incidences from last year—one where a video surfaced online of a Franklin College student spewing derogatory terms and laughing, and another where BSU had written Black Lives Matter in chalk art down Dame Mall only to be scuffed up by students dragging their feet across the drawings.
Junior Destinee Cross told of an experience she had while going to the Johnson County fair with a friend a few years back. She said she felt uncomfortable being there because members of the community were staring at her. She also said there were confederate flags everywhere she turned, making her feel even more unwelcome.
“It was like a target on my back the whole time,” Cross said. “Worst experience of my life.”
BSU will next meet at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 via Zoom. To get more information or the Zoom log in contact BSU President Alexis Cheatham.