91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Minority students at UM deeply hurt by racist flyers and isolation on campus

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio
Lauren Ward at University of Michigan meeting about racist flyers

Many minority students remain stunned, hurt, and angry, days after racist flyers were found in two buildings on the University of Michigan campus.

One of the flyers called on "Euro-Americans" to "Be White" and "stop living in fear."

Another flyer gave racist reasons why white women should not date black men.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel called a "Community Conversation" meeting on Sunday afternoon to let people express their feelings and thoughts.

Many students said they already felt isolated, unsafe, and looked down on before the flyers showed up.

U of M student Mika Smith said the day she saw the flyers, she had trouble functioning.  She didn't want to go to class and she didn't want to talk.  

Smith said she already has to deal with being the only black person in most of her classes, with having to work twice as hard to get to the U of M, with having to work twice as hard to stay focused on learning when she doesn't feel safe and comfortable, and now this happened.

"Why?," she asked the crowd. "It's not fair. It's hurtful. I just want everyone to know it's hard, everyone says it, but you can see it right here. It's hard. We need support. This is not easy, and like someone said, 'Where are the white students at?' We experience it. This is us."

Other speakers said they feel University administrators, deans, and professors - most of them white - have taken little to no responsibility for helping minority students feel welcome and a part of the University community. 

Only a few places feel safe and comfortable - and the classroom is not one of them.

The incident comes at an ironic time for Schlissel, who is launching his Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan on Thursday.

The plan aims to dramatically improve the climate on campus for minorities, as well as recruit more minority students, staff and faculty.

Schlissel condemned the flyers, and says he wants to make the University safer and more inclusive - but he can't prevent "sick" people from doing racist things.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
Related Content