Institutional Racism: Coverage
Articles appearing in 1996 and later, while still covering instances of inequality on campus, tended to locate racism more on the institutional level than on the personal level. In other words, staff writers moved away from arguing that campus administrators or whites as a whole were purposefully subjugating African American students and staff. Instead, staff writers focused more on how existing laws and structures tended to disadvantage African Americans, even as they favored whites. In this broader view of racism and its effects, staff writers recognized that African Americans were negatively affected as much by subtle differentiation in opportunities and access as they were by overt attacks stemming from their skin color. Two articles from the 1996-1997 school year are good examples of this shift in focus.
An article in the September 5, 1996 issue discussed the lack of funding for the African American Cultural Center (AACC) Library and Gallery. The Library contains books by and about Africans, African Americans, and other members of the African Diaspora, while the Gallery hosts visiting artists and exhibits related to African American history, culture, and social issues. Staff writer Fred Frazier noted that both institutions, much like the AACC more broadly, had long suffered from budget shortfalls. Because AACC staff had little money for publicizing the spaces, both the Library and the Gallery had suffered from low patronage as well.
Yet, Frazier did not claim that campus administrators were surreptitiously and maliciously undermining the institutions as an attack on African Americans. Instead, Frazier implied that administrators did not understand the importance of these spaces for developing African American identity and promoting community. To administrators, the AACC Library and Gallery were “secondary concerns” because students can simply go to D.H. Hill Library if they need books and to other campus art galleries if they need culture. Administrators missed the point of the AACC Library and Gallery, and by allocating resources elsewhere, they threatened the survival of both institutions.
A second article from January 30, 1997, reported on the affirmative action debate that arose during a UNC-System Student Government Association meeting. Student representatives from North Carolina's public colleges and universities, including NC State, disagreed on using the phrase "affirmative action" in legislation that would be presented to the UNC System President and Board of Governors. Over a third of the student leaders at the meeting voted against using the term, "Affirmative Action," in SGA legislation either because they thought that the term was polarizing and connoted entrance quotas based on race, or because they believed that programs should be based solely on merit.
Staff writer Carolyn Holloway, who reported on the meeting, implied that these student leaders did not understand the intent of Affirmative Action programs. Such programs are intended not only to provide opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities to attend college who may not have been able to afford it otherwise, but to provide opportunities for other underrepresented populations--such as students from rural communities--to attend college as well. As with campus administration’s underfunding of the AACC Library and Gallery, The Nubian Message claimed, SGA students missed the point of Affirmative Action programs.