Dear College Students: That ‘joke’ about race, gender, can taint your future

Terry Howard of Douglasville is a writer, trainer and a senior associate with DiversityWealth. His career includes 15 years at AT&T in Human Resources and Diversity and 15 years at Texas Instruments as Global Director of Diversity.

In the wake of the campus unrest over allegations of racial discrimination and hate speech, here’s an open letter he wrote to college students.

By Terry Howard

This “letter” requires some imagination. It is direct, graphic, hard-hitting and may cause discomfort. It is written to students on increasingly diverse college campuses who may be tempted or lured by peers to participate in racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise potentially offensive behavior toward others on campus.

It is not about your intent; rather it’s about the far-reaching impact of your behavior.

Now to make this letter work, I ask you to relax and close your eyes. Here goes:

You roll out of bed, glad to be awake since you’ve just had a horrible dream. But it’s not a dream…it is a reality.

It all started when you and  your “boys” (or “girls’) decided to drive across campus late one Saturday night after a wild party with lots and lots of cold beer, wine and a few joints. Your intentions were just to engage in some “innocent” fun.

“Hey (N-word), take your butt back to the ghetto,” shouted one of those in the back seat, a comment directed toward a black student exiting the library. Everyone, including you, roared in laughter.

That comment was followed 15 minutes later with, “Hey you two faggots, we don’t want AIDS spread on our campus,” directed at two men walking toward a dorm by a drunken occupant in the front seat. Again, loud laughter ensued.

“Yo Osama, is that a bomb you’re hiding in that backpack?” yelled out another occupant. The recipient stared back in shock.

“Hey (B-word) wanna come to our party,” you asked the two girls walking along the sidewalk.  Amid the laughter, someone in the car tossed out a condom.

Okay, all in fun you thought, just boys being boys, right?

At some point, these signs seemed a good idea to frat members at Old Dominion University. The students quickly came to regret their actions, which led to the suspension of the frat. (Twitter photo)

At some point, these signs seemed a fun idea to frat members at Old Dominion University. The students quickly came to regret their joke, which led to the suspension of the frat and national condemnation. (Twitter photo)

Then came Monday morning when you received a text message from the Dean of Students requesting you to come immediately to his office. Well, unbeknownst to you, someone caught some of your Saturday night “fun” on  camera, loud voices and all. Despite your denials, when the Dean played you the video, there was no doubt that the car was yours.

“Unfortunately, because of your behavior, you are immediately expelled from this university. We will have someone from security escort you back to your dormitory and assist you in packing your bags. Sorry, this turned out this way, but your behavior is inconsistent with our values and expectations of students on our campus. Good luck in your future endeavors.”

Hours later, as you head down the highway in your car packed with your belongings, hurt, embarrassed and confused, all kind of questions cropped up in your mind, among them:

How do I explain all this to mamma and daddy, my wonderful parents who worked hard all their lives to fund my college education?

How will my parents explain what happen to the rest of the family, especially after their talking with so much pride about my academic accomplishments?

Will my brothers or sisters have to fend off hurtful jokes and comments from their peers about me because of what took place?

Would I want my name plastered on the front page of newspapers and across the Internet?

Do I want to make the evening news on CNN, NBC, Fox and ABC?

Do I want my parents to wake up one morning to find people picketing their home with signs bearing the words, “Bigotry is learned at home”?

Will my expulsion hamper my chances of transferring to another school?

What do I say to a potential employer who wants to know why I left such a fine university?

Although I know deep down inside that I am not a racist, sexist or homophobe, are these the labels I will have to bear for the rest of my life?

Would I have said these things to people when “my boys” weren’t around?

If I am fortunate enough to land a good job, how will this incident impact my ability to work with – or for – people we offended that infamous Saturday night, especially if they somehow are aware of it?

In the end, was what happened that Saturday night really worth it?

Okay, open your eyes now. Go ahead and pinch yourself back into reality and away from this terrible nightmare.

So here’s the deal.

Chances are that at some point in the future you may find yourself in a situation where you must make a choice: to go along (even if you know full well it’s wrong and not who you are), or just do what is right.

Yes, your intention is one thing, but the consequences of the wrong choice can be far-reaching ….and devastating…in ways you may never have considered in the midst of “just having fun!”

So think about it, for crying out loud. Think about it. You’re much better than that. Why ruin your life and negatively impact the lives of your loves ones with a mindless act of stupidity?  Why not just choose the road less traveled?

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both. And be one traveler, long I stood. And looked down one as far as I could. To where it bent in the undergrowth…I shall be telling this with a sign. Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference”– excerpts from “The Road Less Traveled” by Robert Frost.

 

Reader Comments 0

31 comments
anothercomment
anothercomment

My high school age child in the last couple of months has been insulted and called names by Latino or Hispanic persons of various income levels.

At a party given by a friend whose husband is an executive with a fortunate 50 company, the US born but of Columbian descent daughter and several other girls called my daughter "white b" and other epithets. These girls all attend $20k plus private schools, my child does not.

Then this week we went to the local laundry mat to wash the comforters. My daughter told me that she was being called " white girl and cracker " by the Mexicans. Then when an older woman tried to give her instructions in Spanish on how to properly place the comforter in the dryer to get it to dry. Then a younger women started translating. My daughter then announced no need, I have understood every word you have said. They then were stumbling to take back what they had said.

In both instances my daughter was stunned at how both the educated upper class and as they would refer, the Mexican maid class would both call her mean names, I responded how stupid they all are to not realize that any White high school student knows enough Spanish to know that she is being talked about and called racial epithets.

So why is it okay for Blacks and Hispanics to use racial epithets. To worship music that promotes the use of epithets. I don't get it. Then again I was the Hick from upstate NY in college that couldn't call the Puerto Rican kid a rhyming word back, when he would call me hIck in College.

anothercomment
anothercomment

Yesterday, I got the loaner SUV from the Buckhead luxury car dealer. The radio was preset to Fox News satellite Radio and then various Urban stations.

I found both of these options appalling and in fact I left a message with the car dealer rep. That this was a sure way to run off customers.

One group can't cry racism and sexism at every turn when uttered by someone of a lighter hue when they condone the same language among themselves.

The same goes for the Fox News Rush crowd, I am not a fan of what you spew making fun of women and Birth control, while sending your maid to buy your oxi.

gapeach101
gapeach101

Parents should be teaching their children to "do the right thing" from a young age.  This is not something you all the sudden learn in college.  If your child is not standing tall in HS,  it's hard to do in college.

class80olddog
class80olddog

These comments don't come out of thin air. Even if drunk, the person saying them must have thought them or at been influenced by someone who thought them for them to be expressed.

redweather
redweather

I agree with the blog article but not the use of Robert Frost's poem, which is almost always misread. 

Silver8
Silver8

Negative comments to others should focus on truths: 1) Blacks & Latinos are responsible for an overwhelming percentage of murder and crime in the US. Interracially, blacks and latinos (not asians) almost always murder whites, and almost no whites murder them. 2) Islam is a religion, not a race. Their prophet was a pedophile having had sex withe at least one six-year-old girl, and he was a murderer. Attacking Islam is no different than attacking the KKK (also a twisted religion that now focuses on Jewish people, not blacks). 

Homosexuals are not a genetic group either. There is no 'gay' gene, it is a behavioral issue. In most of the world, the concept of being homosexual is not an exclusive behavior. So making fun of that behavior should be fair game.

Isaac Howard
Isaac Howard

For those who want to criticize this article. Stop and think about the what it really says about you. How can you criticize an article that sends a positive message? You can find things left unsaid in soo many things in life. Stop and reflect on how angry you are as you write. If this article makes you angry then you probably have a dirty little secret....

Gman37
Gman37

Sorry Isaac Howard. You should take a look in the mirror first about anger. I see you're incapable of an adult conversation by trying to insult and insinuate dirty secrets? The point is taken about actions have consequences. All the examples demonstrate actions that are not condoned and condemned. However, all the examples are of what we are told are the only examples of intolerance today. Did the students get kicked out that harassed the students studying in the library @ Dartmouth? The PC police tell us thst these are the only forms of intolerance. And if you disagree, you're called names. This is what we hear because that's what the media and universities want you to hear. Look at the commercials today. Only the black man or any woman is the smart one in the commercial. The white guy is an idiot. If you don't think it's a coincidence that these are the examples used by the diversity guru, then you're naive. Just as there are many skin colors, there are many forms of intolerance which you're demonstrating. Don't think that blacks, gays, women are the only ones harassed today. I experienced it being a conservative at a liberal arts college. I dealt with it directly and didnt cry about it. What was telling was the "apology" by the administrator who insulted the very people she was trying to convince to be tolerant. It was not an apology, but a justification for her insults.

So yes, I will state when I have issues with the subtle pc examples because there is an insidious agenda behind it.

Isaac Howard
Isaac Howard

@Gman37...my goal was not to insult. You question my maturity and accuse me of insulting someone because I questioned the intent of their disagreement with the message presented in the article. The result is that you have insulted me....So, if your characterization of me is correct, then you too are not capable of having an adult conversation...

Now to the point, my comment does not reflect anger. It reflects curiosity and first hand experience with the psychology of racist individuals. However, my question to you is, what do you have to lose by practicing the suggestions presented in this article?

Isaac Howard
Isaac Howard

@Lee_CPA2 WRONG. Terry is not my father...WRONG seems to be the trending adjective with your comments...

Gman37
Gman37

Isaac Howard. The bottom line: treat people kindly or possibly suffer the consequences of your actions. The examples the diversity guru gave should be avoided by students: no name calling or taunting of the students he depicted. That should go for all groups and not just what the pc police deem as victim groups. My problems: the groups depicted by the diversity guy are the same groups we are told we must be tolerant of everyday; these are the groups we must protect... and only them. Others are ok to disregard. As i experienced firsthand by so called tolerant individuals at a distinguished and enlightened university, intolerance and name calling because i had different viewpoints. The examples I gave are often seen as Ok to be intolerant of; name calling under the guise of a perceived past injustice is allowed. It becomes OK for blacks to harass whites on campus and oust presidents of universities based on inaction to fabricated injustices, and gays to be intolerant of and harass christians, and women to berate men or make up stories of rape such as at U of VA and Duke University examples. Whites, christians, men don't fall under the diversity definition so they can be attacked?

I noticed you made no comment about what I brought up as injust that doesn't follow the pc play book. Are you OK with those injustices I mentioned? Or is it about control? Is that the true color? If you're not Ok with those injustices, please share.

Again, treat all people kindly, not just the pc groups.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Global Director of “Diversity”.Tells you all you need to know.

--------------------------------------------

Dear WHITE College Students:That joke about non-whites, gender, homosexuals, non-Christian religions, and any number of politically correct causes will get the Cultural Marxist panties all in a twist.

There – I fixed the title for you Maureen.

--------------------------------------------

In other news, Arizona State University has a course entitled “US Race Theory & the Problem of Whiteness”I kid you not.Wonder what our resident “Global Director of Diversity” has to say about that?Not much, I wager.

--------------------------------------------

BTW, a blog about race and only nine comments?How’s that “premium content” working out for ya AJC?

PJ25
PJ25

@Lee_CPA2 It shows how stupid many people are because it's easy to trick this format with about two clicks of a mouse. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@OriginalProf @Lee_CPA2

And you think a university should teach about "the problem of whiteness"?  Let me guess, white privilege, we're just holding the blacks down, yada, yada, yada.


Infraredguy
Infraredguy

All the above applies to Students except those calling themselves BLM supporters, they can cuss and threaten at will as they did at Dartmouth and get a freepass

Gman37
Gman37

Will the same be said/done if said students yell "cracker"? "Redneck?" at white students who are trying to study? Will the Black Lives Matter mafia be given a pass because they feel oppressed? Racism is not just a one way street. All races can be racist. If truly inclusive, provide examples of all groups, not just the politically correct ones.

Isaac Howard
Isaac Howard

I can't believe you are actually criticizing the intent of this article. It says a lot about how un-sympathetic and confused you are about race in this country. You obviously have no clue as to what the reality of racial issues are in this country. Of course it is not acceptable to call someone "cracker." And this article does not condone that.

What was your intent in writing this ignorant post? A more practical and less racist post would have been an amendment that built upon what was not said. However, you decided to criticize and show your true colors...so sad you can't see the prejudice in your own thinking. And you will probably will stick by your guns and not even take the time to look within.

0.0650625509196
0.0650625509196

@Isaac Howard I think people should be free to say whatever they want. Society will oust them as time goes along or maybe not. But as far as it concerns what people DO or what their actions are... that I will not condone. I do not condone telling people what not to say or speak on. You are free to believe what you want. Your actions on those beliefs I will not accept or condone. Those must be atoned for. you can call me what you want and believe whatever you want. You cannot take action on those beliefs to hurt your fellow man. Telling people what they can and cannot think does not do much of anything. I am fairly certain over 2000 years of history show us that. But an individuals actions that seek to do physical harm or to take away someones livelihood? These must be punished. 

gapeach101
gapeach101

@0.0650625509196 @Isaac Howard

People are free to say what they want.  But words have meanings, and actions have consequences.  Seems to me this author is merely trying to alert stupid 18-22 year olds, that they can ruin their lives on one drunken  Saturday evening.

Hillary's Emails
Hillary's Emails

Just another cover for an attack on fraternities and sororities.

And this warning, of course, doesn't apply to black students. Listening to the lyrics of top hip-hop songs will quickly dispel any such notion.

Paris4ever
Paris4ever

great article, the only regret that it does not reach the masses for who it is intended until too late.  thank you.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Now imagine if the recipients of your vile behavior had simply looked at you and said to themselves...

"Drunk and stupid. I've been there, done that, and was damned lucky I didn't get caught."

Naughty chairs and safe places.

What's this world coming to when...

Every breath you take and every move you make

Every bond you break, every step you take, they'll be watching you.

I'm avoiding mutiny and annoying scrutiny. Living my life and no one else's.



MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@FIGMO2 If we're quoting fav song lyrics, I'm going with the great Glenn Campbell:


You've got to try a little kindness yes show a little kindness
Yes shine your light for everyone to see
And if you'll try a little kindness and you'll overlook the blindness
Of the narrow minded people on the narrow minded streets

class80olddog
class80olddog

Yes, people (of any age) are responsible for their actions. Wish they taught that in school.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog Every one of us has done or said something we regretted.  In today's digital and quick to offend world, those things can stick with you forever.  If its not violent, it really shouldn't.  But the advice in the article is sound.  People fail to realize, despite auto insurance rates, that those 25 and under often have moments of really poor judgement.

Christie_S
Christie_S

@xxxzzz @class80olddog Eh...hey, now.  Let's not introduce a perfectly correct biological reason (like the brain not physically matured completely until around 26 or so) for youngsters' immaturity.  :D