Opinion | Racism has no valid excuse

Victor Hagan, Contributing Columnist

On Nov. 6, 2022, Sophia Rosing, a now former University of Kentucky student, was caught on camera physically assaulting and hurling racial slurs at Kaylah Spring, a Black student and residence hall desk-clerk. The University of Kentucky has since expelled Rosing and permanently banned her from the campus.

While the University of Kentucky took action, it took a massive social media uproar to inspire them to do so. The incident was shared across multiple platforms with many calling for Rosing’s expulsion. Had her actions not been recorded and posted online, Rosing would likely have received a slap on the wrist and still be enrolled.

While Rosing has said she is “humiliated and embarrassed,” she plead not guilty to charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, assault and assault of a police officer. Rosing was clearly intoxicated in the video and her lawyer, Fred Peters, said she would possibly enter a treatment program.

While alcoholism is a serious issue, it is not an excuse for hateful actions. I’m certain of this because something similar happened to me in late October.

I was sitting in a friend’s apartment celebrating a roommate’s birthday when another friend of mine and I got into an argument. The argument led to some name-calling, which resulted in him calling me the n-word. 

I immediately got up and left as everyone else there started yelling at him. Needless to say, I haven’t spoken to him since, and neither has anyone else who heard him. He later texted an apology where he used being drunk and upset as an excuse, saying that he didn’t mean to say it. Others have also reached out to me saying he’s sorry, but there’s no excuse for that kind of behavior.

If you use a racist or any other hateful term, no matter your mental state, it’s because you wanted to say it. “I was drunk” is not going to help your case, as I’m a firm believer that drunk words are sober thoughts.

It’s one thing to make a mistake, but it’s another to be outwardly hateful — intoxicated or not. Someone who feels “embarrassed and humiliated” for shouting slurs isn’t sorry for doing it; they’re sorry they got caught.

Making up an excuse, rather than admitting to the wrong, makes you look worse. The typical “I’m not racist, I have a Black friend” trope will only worsen matters. However, those who try to justify the actions of others are sometimes no better than the offender.

You can tell who someone is by how they react to their surroundings, specifically when something happens to others, not to them. While the term “silence is violence” is a little cheesy, it’s true. 

Justifying hateful actions, whether they are yours or others’, makes you complicit in hate. You can’t claim to be an ally yet spend time around people who actively spread hate. It is never fun calling someone out on their actions, but imagine being the person who they wronged. If you wouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t be OK with coming from someone else.

Unfortunately, most people of color have or will experience some form of racial discrimination in their lives. Racism will never fully go away, but it can become less and less tolerated by universities, workplaces and the government.

The most frequent rebuttal I hear is that it’s just a couple of rude or nasty people committing these acts. But if every other Black student on campus has a story about someone being racist to them, either those couple of people are very thorough, or it’s a real problem that’s being ignored.

Some people may be stuck in their ways, but we as a society are capable of improvement by recognizing hateful behavior and calling it out.

The University has a lengthy history of students participating in racial discrimination but not taking action. If hate truly doesn’t roll here, the administration will pay more attention to what occurs on campus and take more serious action when made aware of incidents.

If you can’t understand how your actions, or lack of action, can be hurtful or even come back to bite you, don’t expect much sympathy when you’re on the other side of the incident.

If you experience or witness an incident of discrimination on or near campus don’t be afraid to report it. Even if there are no immediate results, taking that first step is how we prove that hate doesn’t roll here. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.