On August 31, a social media movement began by a group of individuals known as #theirate8. The Irate 8 refers to the 8% of black students at the University of Cincinnati, and their frustrations with the quality of life on campus.
After the July 19 shooting of Samuel Dubose by the University of Cincinnati Police Department, many people, especially African Americans on campus, were left enraged and saddened by the fact that they can no longer trust the people whose job it is to serve and protect us. The shooting was reminiscient of the 2001 police killing of teenager, Timothy Thomas by a white Cincinnati officer.
On day one of the movement, over 250 posts flooded Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter featuring the group’s mission statement: “We, the black leadership at the University of Cincinnati, stand in solidarity with each other and the greater community in a demand for change on this campus effective immediately.” Each post mentioned @prezono and used the #thehottestcollegeinamerica and #blacklivesmatter in hopes that our University’s President would acknowledge that indeed, black lives do matter.
On September 2, Instagram was again filled with people of the movement holding up signs reflecting the sentiments of #theirate8. Each sign began with the phrase “Now that we have your attention…”
On September 3, #theirate8 published a video that broke down where their grievances lie. The video features several students answering questions like “Have you faced any discrimination at UC?,” How did you feel when you heard that one of our own UCPD officers murdered Sam Dubose?,” and “Do you hate President Ono?”
Although the campaign began as a result of the police shooting, the University of Cincinnati has a deeply rooted history with racism. For example, did you know in 1982 SAE fraternity had a Martin Luther King Jr. trash party where people came in blackface and stereotypes? (“University of Cincinnati African American Experience Timeline”). One student dressed as MLK with bullet holes in him, and to get into the party you had to bring things like your 13 kids, a welfare check, a written note saying you don’t know who your dad is, etc. In addition, it is believed that the Mick and Mack statues were originally gifts to UC from SAE to protect it from the “evils,” referring to the black people who were just beginning to get accepted into the University.
A few years ago, the University of Cincinnati hired its first black dean of the college of Arts and Sciences, the biggest college on campus. Dean Jackson is my dad, and unfortunately his time as Dean was cut short after a fellow administrator posted racist hand-drawn cartoons around campus featuring my dad and Carol Tongue-Mack, a black woman he promoted for the role of assistant Dean at A&S. The person who created the cartoon was not fired, was not punished and the lack of negative responses and support for the Dean, led him to resign.
Dr. Jackson went to school here in 1986 and received his undergraduate degree and masters (he later went on to get his Ph.D. at Howard University). I asked him what the climate was like on campus when he was a student to which he said, “Black people were not seen as valued or included on campus. Although, one key difference was when I was a student, black people made up 13% of the student population which was 33,000, compared to today black students make up 8% of 45,000 students.” He believes the issue is recruitment and retention. “There’s a built in systematic structure where the University doesn’t seek black student excellence. There’s this false assumption that all black people are less academically gifted than their white counterparts, but no one is visiting school’s like Clark, Mason, and Indian Hill to find minority students who are at the top of their game.” These are the students who will return to school each year and graduate.
“All corporations understand that strategic diversity and inclusion matter, and that it must be routinely measured and stakeholders must be accountable. So why do we have to educate the University about this? Right now the University has a plan, but it’s not working. Why? Because there’s no accountability. They’re mouthing platitudes,” Dr. Jackson shares.
There’s still a lot to be done to make UC as inclusive as it says it is. I spoke with the leader of the #theirate8, and she says they’ve come up with a list of demands and have a lot more in store for this campaign. #Theirate8 will not rest until changes have been made on the campus. So be sure to stay on the lookout. The #blacklivesmatter movement is nothing new; black people have been trying to prove they matter for centuries, I just hope that one day everyone can be treated as equally important, no matter their skin color. Until then, we’ll just have to keep on fighting.
For more information or to get involved with #theirate8 movement, visit www.theirate8.com