Ferguson Protests on Campus: Covert Racism at Hofstra

On November 25th, 2014, a group of Hofstra University students set out to protest the decision not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in the death of Michael Brown. The incident in Missouri enraged thousands of people across the nation and began protests and riots on streets and college campuses alike. Here in New York especially, the masses took to the streets of Manhattan and Hofstra students took the cue and began their own protests on campus, at a micro level of course. Students began the protest outside the Sondra and David Mack Student Center and made their way across campus to Dutch Treats and Hofstra U.S.A. chanting and holding up posters and banners that read, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “I Can’t Breathe.”

The question that many students are asking however, is whether or not protesting on campus is beneficial to the cause in any way and if this is just “white guilt.” The fact however remains that racism still exists even it is just underlying and covert. Social psychologists proved this with the creation of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which is used for the primary purpose of detecting covert racism in people by answering seemingly innocuous questions.

On being asked if protesting on campus was helping the issue and why students wouldn’t protest off campus, Josh Wilson, a journalism major who took part in the protest said, “I do think it helps spread awareness within the campus. I think a lot of people even on campus are quick to dismiss any talk of racial problems. It doesn’t do as much as other protests in places around the country but it is able to help a little bit on campus… I know people had talked about doing a protest like around the Suffolk Police Department, I don’t know what happened with that. I think part of it is obviously the area around campus isn’t great, but you have places around the country where people are protesting in bad places. I think it really just comes down to people’s availability and not wanting to necessarily go off campus into more dangerous areas.”

An overwhelming majority of students on campus who were asked if they thought that racism existed at Hofstra answered, “yes” and half of them said that it was covert or existed but it in a subtle manner. Not surprisingly it was students of color who agreed the most.

The second protest on campus took place on December 3rd after another similar incident, this time closer in Staten Island, New York, where a grand jury declined to indict another police officer in connection with the death of Eric Gardner. Things seem to have calmed down significantly on campus with finals around the corner, but there’s no doubt that the anger and outrage over the two incidents will not boil down in a hurry.