This statement of opinion on my human status greeted me as I left for class one day, spray painted on my dormitory room door by some coward, possibly someone who lived on my floor and with whom I may have interacted regularly. Though there is never a justification for such an expression of racial hatred, the reason someone would deface university property with such a slur was not difficult to surmise. As a Resident Advisor, I was charged both with helping to address resident-related needs of the young men on my floor and with enforcing accountability relative to the policies of the university. This latter duty created a natural area of conflict with that minority of residents who believed that emancipation from their homes meant an emancipation from responsibility and basic decency. On my first day, I was compelled to dismiss a resident who thought it a good idea to hurl a metal chair down a hallway giving no thought to the possibility of someone taking a chair leg in the eye as they turned the hallway corner. For every dorm party, I was the one who policed the school's prohibition against alcohol, which occasionally necessitated a complete shutdown of the event. If a non-resident was causing a problem, I was the one who asked them to leave and called security if they refused. In short, there were reasons for one resident or another to be agitated with me. But as there is an almost infinite number of adjectives that a person could level at someone responsible for enforcing university policy, the need to refer to that person with a slur of racial degredation is prima facie evidence of the racism in the heart of the one offering it.
What far too many people either fail to recognize or refuse to acknowledge is that being called a "nigger" or other racial pejorative is a common experience for a black student at a university with a predominantly white student body, an unacceptable reality of campus life. Add to that the racially selective grade and policy enforcement that sometimes occurs, the exclusionary social caste system among student groups and the care required when out among local residents unaffiliated with the university and many black college alumni recognize the perverse rite of passage that experiences with on-campus racism can be for someone who is experiencing life away from home for the first time. Like all parents and elders who have had similar experiences, we empathize with what today's students of color are going through and endorse their speaking out about it even as we admonish them to keep their eyes on the prize (graduation) and turn the stumbling blocks of bias they may experience into stepping stones toward their better lives.
Everyone from fauxnews wing-nut bloviators, to politicians playing to the bigots in their voting base to members here on the Vine have argued that the protests and calls for administrator resignation are an overreaction of people who should have a thicker skin. This is, of course, the perspective of those who are seldom if ever on the receiving end of racial hostility, much less having to deal with it on at least a bi-weekly basis. As with most mass protests, the triggering incident is merely the last straw on a long-developing state of reality. When those who have lived with that unacceptably oppressive reality finally say "enough", those who live their lives in blithe or willful ignorance of that reality express self-absorbed bemusement at those protestations.
When "nigger" was spray-painted on my door, we didn't have camera phones and social media. I didn't even have a camera to record the ignominy for posterity. When I was in school, most colleges and universities didn't make as big a deal about diversity like they do today, but the message was no less an indictment of the community and a blight on what I'm sure it considered to be its image so the literal cover up was swift. Contrary to my wishes, the university had already painted the door over by the time I got back from class and the incident was over as far as the administration was concerned. There was no investigation to find the perpetrator, no apology to me (I didn't expect one), and no facilitator in to talk to the residents about racial acceptance. Of course, being the target of a racist epithet isn't something that one simply forgets about, especially when it isn't the only such incident to have occurred. Indeed, the defacing of my door was merely the visible part of the iceberg. While the incidents, the slights and the message that "you don't belong" weren't daily occurrences, they weren't exactly rare either. I think that many university administrations are clueless about this lived reality and it leaves them open to be surprised by what they think is an outsized reaction to what it believes to be an individual incident.