Author Lawrence Ross speaks to students about campus racism


Devon Sipes/ The Sunflower

Lawrence Ross, author, historian and activist, speaks to students, staff and public figures about the nature of racism and discrimination on college campuses on Feb. 10th, 2022 at the Rhatigan Student Center.

Lecturer and author Lawrence Ross visited Wichita State on Friday to turn students’ attention to issues of racism that has occurred on college campuses across the country.

He decided to write his book “Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race of America’s Campuses” after lecturing on college campuses for almost 20 years. He saw that racism was a topic that many students did not like discussing.

“No one was listening, no one was paying attention,” Ross said. They had to cobble together like the people on campus to be able to even just get through. And I began to wonder if there was something there” 

Ross began research to see if there was an issue with  Black students over an extended period of time — 1946-2015. 

“I started looking at campus racism in a sense and began seeing a formula, and that formula is very simple,” Ross said.

The “3 Ize”; individualize, minimize, and trivialize is the formula Ross said connected all of the issues together. 

Colleges and universities tend to individualize the incident, by saying that it was a one time thing and that there is no larger issue at hand.

“University officials will then try to minimize the situation by saying a statement, ‘does not represent our values,’” Ross said.

Lastly, they will look for the reason why the incident happened by trivializing it. 

“We use what is the First Amendment dodge,” Ross said.

“Students get frustrated and wonder why nothing changes and they become transitory.”

Ross said the first type of world on a college campus is a race adverse.

“Race adverse from an institutional way, they typically try to project out their aspirations of what they want the world of the university to be but it does not necessarily match what the university actually is,” Ross said.

Ross said some colleges and universities will “lie” by putting minority students on their websites or pamphlets to promise a diverse campus. 

“We think of college as being some sort of Utopia, some educational Disneyland, where the regular societal issues don’t really affect us,” Ross said.

The race aware world on a campus signifies how a minority student might feel when they are surrounded by white students. Ross said they may feel uncomfortable and that they don’t belong in a certain social setting.

“We jump through hurdles to be ignorant about racism, so it is not surprising that when we get to a college campus that people do not know how to talk about it,” Ross said.

Ross wants college campuses to understand  problems within itself and implement changes that will inspire other colleges or universities to model each other. 

Throughout Ross’s years speaking to students, he believes that it is time for the young generation to be the change that they want to see. After understanding the problem, students can then address it with their minds and actions. 

“You have to get the best critical thinking skills you can at Wichita State and then use those skills as your weapon,” Ross said.