Black Emory Law Student Writes Honest, Insightful Open Letter to University About Racism


Photo by Emory University

A Black Emory University law student shared a rousing letter about the alleged racism of a fellow law student.

Erian Stirrup is one of nearly 300 law students at the prestigious Atlanta-based university, and she shared her personal encounter with a student who has had a history of racial transgressions.

The student, who is white, repeatedly wrote racially insensitive remarks about Black people, Hispanics, Muslims and other marginalized groups on a Facebook page. These remarks made the rounds on social media because many of them were screenshot before they could be deleted by the nameless white law student.

Regarding the Black Lives Matter Movement, Stirrup said the student would say things like:

“They separate themselves with the movement and pull stupid stunts like shutting down the freeway. Peaceful protesters my ass.”

“My silence soon became overwhelming,” Stirrup writes. “So, in an effort to both address the offensive nature of her expression, and to give her an opportunity to elucidate her views in person, without the potential for grave misinterpretation over the internet, I asked her to converse with me.”

During a short conversation, Stirrup talked about the Black Lives Matter movement. According to her, the two went back and forth about looting. (The white student dislikes BLM because of looting, even though the looters — in many cases — are not associated in the movement.)

The two-person conversation grew, and things heated up when the white student asserted that Black people commit more crimes in response to Stirrup’s argument that police disproportionately arrest people compared with other groups, even though crime rates are similar. Threats were made, and administrators had to get involved.

“… So, after she attempted to threaten me into submission by telling me we could discuss this in the Dean’s office, and in the most effective sarcastic manner, I told her we could, and that I felt  unsafe with her in the classroom because white people are more likely to commit school shootings.

Not surprisingly, she was outraged. She was so offended that I would make such an outlandish statement (one that mirrored the grandiose generalization she’d just made about Black people) that she began to cry. For that moment, if never again,  she felt exactly how the marginalized students in this University feel. She left the classroom screaming, crying, and returned with someone from the administration.

Administrative silence and clear selective empathy, confirm my distaste for the hypocrisy of a community that revel’s in the “robust” free speech protections granted to us under the Constitution…”

At this point, a harmless discourse between two people became a racialized melodrama. The white student fell into the historical victim role, demonizing the “mean Black woman,” even though she herself was at fault. Like so many Black people who have been hanged and murdered because of wrongdoing alleged by white people, Stirrup could have lost everything she has worked for by calling out racism. The white law student did not care.

Days following the incident, Stirrup received backlash from students at the university.

“In the days following this conversation I found myself and other classmates who had witnessed the interaction defensively explaining how I was not aggressive or angry or threatening. She and other members of the community used the language of violence to frame our conversation. By employing terms that connote physical abuse she tapped into the classic discourse of people of color (particularly African Americans) as dangerous and violent.”

Emory University’s racial demographics mirror those of other major universities. White students make up about 39 percent of the total student body, Asian-Americans are second with 22 percent, and Black students are third with 10 percent. While the demographics for the law school lean in favor of white students, nearly half of students in the law school are women.

The school has historically embraced a legacy of liberalism and progressivism, but as this encounter proves — like many other liberal leaning spaces have shown — much more needs to be done. The #ConcernedStudent1950 movement out of the University of Missouri last year was a prime example of the racial issues in liberal spaces.

This isn’t the first time racialized events like this have occurred on the Emory campus, Stirrup explained. Deans have allegedly made light of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, and she said a librarian lashed out at her and her friends in an alleged racial attack.

Stirrup’s letter was written in wake of an Emory SGA vote to promote inclusivity at the university in mid-February.

According to the Emory Wheel, there will be a “Committee on Diversity and Equity established, an idea which had been discussed at previous meetings.”

Associate Dean for Marketing and Communications and Chief Marketing Officer Susan Clark told Atlanta Blackstar that the issue was handled immediately after the letter went public. “Law School leaders have also been in active dialogue with individual students, with the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), and with the Student Bar Association,” Clark wrote in an email. “The dean has also asked our BLSA alumni leadership for its involvement and support.”

Emory Law has taken recent measures to met with Stirrup and schedule a meeting after spring break to sit down and “discuss what we all can do to foster a more inclusive environment at the Law School,” said Clark.

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