Students Rally Against Racism After Alleged Incident Targeting Black Cafeteria Workers At Washington University In St. Louis

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Black students at Washington University in St. Louis (Wash U) are issuing a call to action after an alleged racist incident at a dining hall occurred, targeting Black workers.

“A group of students last month allegedly threw eggs, stood on tables and used racial slurs in front of primarily racial minority workers,” writes The Associated Press.

According to Student Life, Wash U’s independent newspaper, “Gilbert Grigsby, who supervises dining services for the South 40, said that he was present on the evening of March 21 and saw students running around inside of the dining hall acting ‘loud and obnoxious,’ with behavior including yelling, spitting, and jumping on top of tables.”

“They were wrestling with one another, I was told students were spitting in one another’s faces,” stated Grigsby. “As I was walking back and forth, a young man and a young lady came in and I heard them say ‘we’re going to do this right here.’”

Students believe this was a part of a pledge week activities for a fraternity at the Missouri based school. Allegedly, one pledge even yelled a racial slur. Although some people are saying the Black workers were an unintentional victim, one student vocalized “There’s a level of hesitancy to speak about it … because they’re in a vulnerable state. They have jobs to maintain.”

“It’s demoralizing to have to serve someone and a population that you know will make your life harder, make your job harder … that’s not in their job description to clean up eggs and spit,” the Wash U student emphasized.

David Cook, President of the local food workers union representing the dining hall workers “the staff felt intimidated and uncomfortable,” during the March 21 incident, which took place around 10 p.m. that night.

Rob Wild, Dean of Students at Wash U reported that the college’s Kappa Sigma fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority chapters have been suspended while the incident is being investigated.

Black students who are members of historically Black fraternities and sororities known as the “Divine Nine” have spoken out against what took place.

A statement from the Alpha Eta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, indicated their organization “will not stand for the public humiliation of hard working African American students and staff at Washington University, or any other academic institution. We will not allow our communities to succumb to the continuation of the Anti-Black culture that has been perpetuated throughout our country’s history.”

In addition, last Friday “students staged a sit-in to support cafeteria workers at Bears Den,” the site of the dining hall disturbance. The Association of Black Students organized the “Occupy BD” demonstration.

A senior at Wash U who wished to remain unnamed said, “It was just outright disrespectful…We don’t believe that they deserve to be treated like this. We wouldn’t treat them like this. Nobody deserves to be treated like this.”

“If the employees who come in and serve them every day aren’t safe, then how are we as Black students supposed to feel safe,” the student added.

“The Association of Black Students(ABS) is calling for the chapters to be terminated from Washington University’s campus and that all individuals involved in the disturbance be expelled from the institution. ABS said it believes the incident is a hate crime targeting Black students and dining services workers. It said a similar incident happened about 10 years ago,” KOMU reports.

The Association has put together a petition advocating for all parties involved to be punished, reading “The repeated offense shows us that not enough was done the first time, to combat WashU’s culture of anti-Blackness and the organizations that promote it…Thus, this time, we demand a stronger response.”

Missouri General Assembly member, LaKeysha Bosley said, “This puts me in the mindset of The Freedom Riders … the regression is here. We’re seeing such an outpour of hate around the world.”

“This is a very real result that we’re seeing right now of why DEI is so important and educating our scholars and staff and having policies put in place that promote diversity equity and inclusion,” the Democratic representative continued.

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