BROOKINGS, SOUTH DAKOTA – Students leave their homes to attend universities to get their educations and discover the “real world.” Last Friday several American Indians not only discovered the real world at South Dakota State University, but were confronted with blatant racism as it reared its ugly head in South Dakota’s fourth largest city.
Written on the inside part of a door in a bathroom stall on the first floor of Brown Hall West on the South Dakota State University campus was this message: “Praire” (sic) N-word, Go back to the Rez! Apparently, the racist cannot spell the word prairie.
The message also contained two room numbers, which the Native News Network will not publish. At least one of the dormitory rooms is occupied this semester by American Indian students in Brown Hall West.
There is one bathroom with four toilet stalls and six showers per floor in Brown Hall, with 25 dormitory rooms per floor. There are no private bathrooms in the dormitory rooms. Most dormitory rooms have two occupants; though there are a few rooms with only one student.
The racist, who cannot spell, wanted to ensure the message stayed because it was written with a permanent marker. By Monday, the message was hidden by spray paint.
“I chose this school because it was far enough from home and still close enough to home,”
said a Lakota student, who chooses to remain unidentified at this point because of fear of reprisal, to the Native News Network on Monday night. The student is from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
“I was outraged. I was speechless. I was flabbergasted. It blew my mind seeing that,”
the same student told the Native News Network.
In a memorandum dated September 28, 2012, Dr. Jeff Hale, director of residential life at South Dakota State University, writes to Brown Hall residents:
On the morning of Friday, September 28, University officials were made aware of graffiti in a bathroom stall on the men’s wing of the 1st floor of Brown Hall. The graffiti could be classified as racial harassment.
The official University statement on the Brown Hall incident is as follows:
The University Police Department (UPD) is investigating this incident. South Dakota State University does not condone or tolerate expressions of racial harassment. The University is committed to the affirmation and appreciation of all protected classes, including racial, ethnic, religious or sexual identities, and the belief that all of its members are part of a larger community. University Leadership regards this recent incident as inconsistent with its values and contrary to diversity and intercultural advancement.
Furthermore, this incident could be a crime as well as a violation of multiple provisions of the student code of conduct including but not limited to 01:10:03 regarding harassment (www.sdstate.edu/studentcode). Students found responsible for harassment are subject to sanctions up to and including expulsion.
If you have or become aware of information which would be useful in determining the person(s) responsible for this incident, please contact UPD at 605.688.5117.
American Indian students number some 200 out of a student body of 12,000 that attend South Dakota State University. The majority of the American Indians who attend the university are from South Dakota.
On Monday evening, almost a dozen American Indian students attended a meeting that was convened to discuss the incident.
“We discussed racial issues here on campus,”
said the unidentified student, who said there have been other things that have happened on campus previously.
“There have been other racial slurs in the past. There have been times people have just been disrespectful to Native American students. We are outnumbered.”
The American Indian students who met on Monday evening hope that the university handles the matter in a proper fashion.
So far, none of the non-Indian students have said anything about the incident, according to the Lakota student; nor has there been any who have come forth to apologize.
The student hopes that something good can come out of this incident.
“It is a good problem, because it opens people’s eyes. People see racism still exists today,”
Campus police are in the process of investigating the incident, according to one university that the Native News Network talked to on Monday afternoon, though she indicated that she was not authorized to discuss the incident per a directive from the president of the university. The Native News Network was referred to the university media relations office. The Native News Network calls have gone unanswered as of press time by these university officials.
Editor’s Note: As a matter of journalist standards, the Native News Network chooses not to show crime scene photos with racist words that only incite more anger and give perpetrators satisfaction.