Arkansas University rocked by racist attacks against Black students on online platform Yik Yak

Racist messages were reportedly posted to Yik Yak, a social media platform that serves as a community-discussion site for users within a 5-mile radius


                            Arkansas University rocked by racist attacks against Black students on online platform Yik Yak
Black students at Arkansas State University were told to 'get back on the boat' in an online racist attack (Arkansas State University/Facebook)
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Black fraternities and sororities at Arkansas State University are shaken after being targeted in racist attacks online this week. Anonymous messages were reportedly posted to Yik Yak, a social media platform that serves as a community-discussion site for users within a 5-mile radius. The racist messages were specifically directed toward the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council Greek organizations, which center around the culture of the African diaspora. The Arkansas State University chapter of the NPHC said that Black students were told to “get back on the boat” and that there were also statements like “Black is a disease.”

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In a statement, Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said, "On behalf of the entire Arkansas State University community, I condemn the recent statements of anonymous individuals on a social media app, which I won’t glorify by naming. The language and labels used by persons posting about the weekly NPHC events on campus is simply unacceptable and disgraceful. Notorious in the past for anonymous bullying and harassment, this social media platform has returned to university campuses across America in the last year with the same terrible and irresponsible results of its previous version. The type of statements made recently related to Black students and members of NPHC organizations are shameful and unwelcome at Arkansas State University."

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"I want to be clear that we condemn racism, sexism, and bias against others in all forms. They are unacceptable and violate the very essence of our mantra that Every Red Wolf Counts.  As screen shots of the comments are posted elsewhere, we want to remind everyone of the unaccountable cyberbullying the platform encourages," Damphousse said. "These type of statements are not funny, edgy, or cute. They are deliberately divisive and incredibly hurtful to those targeted by the comments and by others who believe in the ideals of common courtesy, respect for others, compassion, and empathy. Comments like these are designed to do nothing but sow division and strife among groups."

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In an Instagram post, the university chapter of the NPHC condemned the “hostility” and “belittlement”. “Not only is it shameful and discouraging to see our peers using an anonymous app to shame and belittle us, but it is also a mockery of our traditions and history behind our organizations,” the NPHC said in its post.

“For so long, minority students have been unable to feel comfortable on their college campus[es], and this is a prime example. As a student body, we are to exemplify unity and understanding for EVERY student—no matter their race or ethnic background," it added.

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“Whomever is making these comments are outliers,” Arkansas State University Chief Communications Officer Bill Smith told The Daily Beast. “Yik Yak is… an anonymous app with anonymous owners. And it’s geo-based. So, you can only see [posts] within 5 miles of you. So, you can see where it becomes fairly fertile ground for derogatory comments of all types… and it’s not necessarily that you have to be a student in high school or college or a member of that community. You can just be driving through it and make that comment. Now, a lot of students use it to be gossip-y and share their opinions. Unfortunately, sometimes those opinions go way too far.”

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Smith said that the NPHC held an additional rally after the racist messages became public, in an attempt to show support to Black students. “It was well received… I would not want to speak for our students of color because, as a white staff member, I can’t speak for them. But I do get the sense that that was an important moment,” Smith said. “There was a lot of support shown to them by other students, students [who] are not students of color. They were doing their best to make clear that they were welcome and they were loved and they were a part of our A-State community.”

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