Dear University of Wisconsin,

As a student of color here at UW, I will not tolerate racism in any form. There is a difference between our right to freedom of speech and hate speech. There is a difference between exercising your right and disguising that said right in the form of bigotry and hate.

This offensive image depicting President Barack Obama with a noose over his neck went viral over social media platforms. This costume is distasteful, reprehensible, deplorable, iniquitous, indefensible and repulsive — just to name a few adjectives.

Historically, lynchings of African Americans were a method of terrorism used to promote segregation and racial subordination. Lynchings were often very violent and public. Many African Americans were simply lynched for not being born white.

As Bryan Stevenson said: “We cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted during the era of racial terrorism until we tell the truth about it. The geographic, political, economic and social consequences of decades of terror lynchings can still be seen in many communities today and the damage created by lynching needs to be confronted and discussed. Only then can we meaningfully address the contemporary problems that are lynching’s legacy.”

I am proud to be a student here at UW, and I know that the controversy regarding this offensive costume doesn’t reflect the campus as a whole. But how can we celebrate diversity on campus when many students of color feel alienated? The only way we can change this narrative is by talking about these issues.

We need to be more inclusive as a community. Though talking about these issues at times may be uncomfortable and challenging, it’s the only way for our community to grow and prosper together. I will proudly use my platform to get the discussions started. I’ll be the voice for the voiceless.

As Cesar Chavez once said: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community … Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Sincerely,

The African American Devon Snyder

Devon Snyder ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in Spanish and microbiology.