Nothing to Joke About

By J.T. Keith – Sports Editor

Suppose you attended a football game, the game was played at Eastern New Mexico University when a school official, and a volunteer made racist remarks about the names of our players, and jokes about  New Mexico Highland University, African American players, while I was sitting there. What would you do?

Funny thing about race, it’s there, even when it’s seemingly not. Discreet racism is about as straight forward as a punch to the gut, when you’re not looking. Sitting a few feet away, arrogance and ignorance allowed one person to make jokes and garner laughs at my expense. Angry, embarrassed not knowing what to do in this impossible situation, I felt violated. Uneasy this was occurring at a University sanctioned event. As a student you trust those in charge that they would conduct themselves with a measure of decorum. What would you do?

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Remarks about a person’s name, “I bet that’s a brother’s name.” Or when the opposing player was cramping there were remarks about how the player “forgot to stole water.”  Or when he would say, “throw the ball to the white guy not the black guy.”  “What you talkin bout Willis,” comments over and over, like it was not heard the first time.  Jokes about fried chicken, watermelon, names about brothers are not ok, especially at a public school event. A newspaper columnist from the Freedom Newspaper made quips about the opposing African American quarterback, hobbies being, Facebook and fried chicken. Shocking as it was, people laughed! Leaving me stunned these remarks were made. What would you do?

 People have a right to feel the way they want too, but when you make those comments in public, you open yourself up to be branded as a racist. Most of the people I know are lost when it comes to that kind of sophisticated humor. Discrimination against age, race, gender, sexual orientation is wrong in any way, it is wrong period.

I was shocked that it happened in the first place. I talked to different people, they would say just let it go, nothing is going to happen, this is Portales, New Mexico. I am dismayed there are no safeguards in place to protect students’ rights against any kind of bias on campus or in the work place. This occurred three weeks ago and after talking to people, my question is, how do we stop from being discriminated against?  Making sure that it never happens in any form to any other minority.   There needs to be policies in place to protect minority rights. So that people don’t just sweep a remark under the rug and chalk it up to being in Portales, NM. Minorities need to know they have an advocate who will protect their rights.  People need to know something should happen, help is available.

 Walking around the University, one gets the feeling that you’re stuck in a time warp from yesteryear. A person feels like this University is not into change, or more importantly, the truth.

 Administrative officials would rather things be left unsaid, rather than confront uncomfortable situations in order to grow. ENMU would rather stay in Camelot, than to admit things that plague life at other major Universities, don’t happen here. With a desire to grow and establish itself as the third largest growing University in New Mexico, there are going to be growing pains. True growth means dealing with issue that come with visibility and attendance; there needs to be equality for all! Diversity programs need to be set up where no persons civil rights and human rights are ever violated again. No one cares about discrimination or diversity until it happens to them. If and when it happens there needs to be guidelines set up to help get issues resolved.

My biggest complaint against the University is that it has forgotten that there is more than one minority on this campus. The campus has raised a lot of money, and increased the Hispanic enrollment to 1,579 students. Now is the time for the administration, to set his sights on providing equality for all.

What I am proposing is a new campaign of awareness that begins with the powers that be establishing conduct guidelines and policies, that racism and gender discrimination will never be tolerated at this university.

With the African American enrollment at 303 students, this is 5.79% of the 5,500 student body. Are you kidding me?

What I am calling for are new standards, to end archaic hiring practices, starting with the hiring of more qualified African American professors. Currently there are only two. 

There are only two African American football coaches on staff at the University, no fulltime Head Coaches in any sport. Another shocker, there are no African American secretaries at this University, not one!

There are no black fraternities or sororities and no Black Student Unions on campus to help other minorities feel welcome and adjust to life in rural Portales, New Mexico.

More scholarships money needs to be set aside for all minorities for education, the two that are offered for African Americans are not enough and you have to qualify to receive them.

Also there needs to be a qualified African American liaison on staff at the University who can advocate justice on our behalf. With disputes involving African Americans, there is only one side of justice delivered; often seen through the eyes of the mediator. There should be policies in place for students to feel they have rights.

I implore the administration to make Diversity classes mandatory for every employee, every volunteer, every professor, and every coach, before any employee ever interacts with a student. I would like to see   Diversity classes made a mandatory class for all students, like ISI 151, is before any

 Student can graduate.

No one wants to be labeled a racist, saying “I didn’t know” is not a satisfactory excuse in today’s age of sensitivity. For this University that would be the death knell for trying to move up on the rung of higher education. These suggestions will make the University seem progressive instead of regressive.

Dialogue is the key to preventing further incidents from happening to other students. Parents are sending their children to Eastern New Mexico University, trusting that the campus will educate and develop them into men and women who will flourish, and grow, to contribute to society. All it is going to take is one racially charged incident for the NAACP, to get involved, and the next thing you know Eastern is on 60 Minutes, defending hiring practices and race relations. Everything that has been worked so hard for could be gone. What I am proposing, is inclusion instead of exclusion.

Lastly, there needs to be a race relations board that is set up by the President, which includes a student from every race to meet with monthly to voice any concerns about how to make ENMU better!

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    • Robert Smith, ENMU Alumnus
    • September 21st, 2011

    You ask what we would do, but what did you do?

    Nothing. Besides write a blog.

    You obviously were upset by what was said but you were complacent with what was said. That makes you just as much a part of the problem.

    Instead you just expect the university to fix it for you.

    No Black Student Union on campus? That’s not the university’s issue. It’s up to the students to organize.

    No black fraternities?

    No black sororities?

    Whose fault is that? Certainly not Dr. Gamble’s or the administration.

    Here’s a suggestion for you. Be more like Dr. King, and less like Al Sharpton.

    Rather than bitch and moan on a blog, why not get off your butt and take the lead?

    YOU get black students interested in organizing these groups. You inspire black students to be more, to get involved, to organize and to achieve more.

    As for all the extra positions you’re demanding of the university, get real. You’re in the real world now. You have the same rights as everyone else.

    From reading your article, however, you don’t seem interested in exercising your own rights.

    You want the university to hire someone to exercise your rights for you.

    Like I said. More Dr. King. Less Al Sharpton.

    • Karen
    • September 22nd, 2011

    African American Affairs office: 575-562-2437
    Nikki Johnson is in charge.

    Also, just out of curiosity, if you are advocating for equality and individual rights, why do African American/Black students need their own student union or sororities? Let’s quote Rodney King here and say, “Why can’t we all just get along???”

    • Selah
    • September 24th, 2011

    When you look up the statistics of the population of New Mexico, you find that only 2% of our population is black. While we are a culturally diverse state, we do not have a large African American population, so those numbers are consistent with census bureau. I agree with Robert. It appears as though you never stepped in and told them to stop. If you were that uncomfortable, then why didn’t you stop it? It sounds as though you need to quit taking things so personal, and quit being so critical of our school.

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