February 14, 2014 by Editorial Board
Black History Month is not usually an occasion that turns the mainstream media’s attention toward Drexel. There are always several events on campus throughout the month that provide opportunities for the University community to observe the month through learning and remembrance, but these events don’t make national news. Unfortunately, something else related to Black History Month happened on our campus Feb. 1, and it has brought negative attention from all over the country since USA Today College published an article about it Feb. 10. It all started when a Drexel varsity athlete used poor judgment in writing remarks about Black History Month in an Instagram post. An outpouring of outrage followed from other Instagram users, including members of the Drexel community, and the offending post soon went viral throughout social media. University officials are now taking appropriate action.
According to a message that the student in question sent to a fellow Drexel student who contacted her regarding the post, she intended it as a harmless joke between her and a friend. With this explanation in mind, it’s hard to understand why she posted it publicly and didn’t send it as a private message to her friend. What she wrote was unquestionably offensive, and college students ought to have the common sense not to write such things publicly. Regardless of what her thought process may have been, all she can do now is learn from this mistake, and we can all learn from it too.
Social media has been around long enough now that we’ve probably all been told countless times how careful we must be when publishing anything on it. But when an incident like this happens on our own campus and sparks outrage nationwide, it’s worth repeating. Once you post something publicly online, it only takes a few seconds for someone to copy or take a screenshot of it so that you can’t take it back by deleting it. If there’s any possibility that what you’re about to post might be misinterpreted as offensive despite your innocent intentions, you probably shouldn’t post it. If it’s an inside joke, ask yourself if there’s a good reason to share it with anyone who isn’t an insider on the joke.
While the motivation behind the Instagram post appeared to be poor judgment and not true feelings of racism, it has nevertheless erupted into a public conversation about racial sensitivity. It can be tempting to think that racism against African Americans is dead in present-day Philadelphia because we’re half a century removed from the Civil Rights Movement and aren’t in the South. The reality is that despite everything our schools teach about black history and diversity in general, some people may still make racially insensitive remarks without any intention of being offensive. Does that mean our schools aren’t doing a good enough job of teaching these subjects? Who else, if anyone, shares the responsibility for this education? Completely eliminating incidents of racial insensitivity from our society is a lofty goal, but we should certainly be striving toward it.
It’s comforting to see how swiftly and professionally the University acted to minimize the damage caused by the Instagram post while also protecting the offending student’s privacy and ensuring that all necessary apologies were made. It’s a shame this happened, but the Drexel community is making the best of it by using it as an opportunity to discuss how we can prevent similar incidents in the future.