White Male Students Assault Black Female Freshmen With Rotten Bananas At American University
Starting the new school year on the wrong note, a group of White male students decided to harass and attack their Black female peers at American University in Washington D.C. According to Ma’at Sargeant, the president of the school’s Black Student Alliance, during one attack on September 8, the students opened one woman’s dorm room and threw a rotten banana at her. The use of bananas in the attack is meant to point out the racist association of Black people being referred to as and physically compared to monkeys.
In an effort to call out the group’s intimidation tactics and have something done about it, freshman Neah Gray stepped forward to reveal to The Washington Post that a banana was left outside of her dorm room door and penises were drawn on her whiteboard. “I wouldn’t let people drive me out, but it’s kind of sad that this kind of thing still happens,” Gray shared with the publication as she reflected on her first weeks of college.
Upon learning about these cases, the Black Student Alliance decided to release a statement via Twitter, noting how these students and others have been assaulted by their White peers as administrators turned a blind eye.
Jada Bell, who serves as the Black Student Alliance’s outreach coordinator also told Buzzfeed about their efforts to expose how “black women are under threat on campus” and being used as “target practice” by posting signs around campus that read, “#TheRealAU May Include Rotten Bananas Thrown At You” or “First Week At #TheRealAU May Include Having Rotten Bananas Thrown At You.” American University’s Public Safety administrative office removed these signs shortly after the BSA posted them.
This past Friday, administrators at the university stated that they “understand members of our community feel hurt by an incident that happened in a residence hall and separate allegations of racially biased behavior.” They continued in their released statement to note that the dean of students has filed conduct charges against some individuals involved, and university police will continue investigating the assaults.
“Actions can and do have [an] impact beyond their intent and that was the case here. The University condemns discrimination and discriminatory harassment and all violations are handled through the Student Conduct process.”
The perpetrators have been banned from the residence hall where they attacked the freshmen. Buzzfeed learned that they live in an adjoining building and can likely enter the banned hall whenever they like without much fuss.
Following the release of their statement, administrators held a campus town hall meeting Friday afternoon for the student body to discuss how they felt about the attacks. However, Bell and Sargeant said it wasn’t enough to combat a clear problem. Even Devontae Torriente, the student body president at American University, said it’s been difficult to face this issue as a Black student and a campus leader. As someone who has to devise a plan for the student body to navigate these occurrences, he told Buzzfeed that it’s especially tough when the the administration as a whole is “not completely sure” what next steps it will take to change the social climate on campus.
“People tend to be shocked that these things can happen at a school that’s known to be progressive and liberal and whatnot, but this has to be considered in a larger context,” Torriente told Buzzfeed. “These issues can’t be relegated to one side of the political spectrum. It’s important to recognize that even in these liberal bubbles, these things can still happen.”
Sargeant shared a similar sentiment by telling The Washington Post, “You come into this institution that promotes diversity, and then this happens to you,” she said. “The individuals are hurt, and the community as a whole is hurt. And we’re sick of it.” She also told Buzzfeed that her grandmother had to deal with such experiences more than 40 years ago and Sargeant, along with other students of color at American, shouldn’t “have to go through these kind(s) of things in 2016.”
Since knowledge of these incidents became public and went viral, alumni of American University have offered the BSA and students of color as a whole their support.