A good rule of thumb for processing this unexpected, long-time-coming season of college students protesting the white bias built into the mainstream American university system: anyone who takes anti-racism protestors as more troubling than the racism they’re protesting probably has quite a bit of personal investment in racism—subconscious or not.

This instinct, to react more strongly to unusual stringency on the part of social justice movements than the status quo (necessarily stringent, and also unjust) is visible all the way across the spectrum, up to the pages of the New York Times (“intolerance [is] disproportionately an instinct on the left”) and down to the exhaust fumes of Yik Yak, an anonymous cesspool of localized id and ego/useful app for taking unfiltered social temperatures/the only type of “free speech” that I personally find offensive.

In particular, at Indiana University in Bloomington, there were some interesting reactions to the photo up top, posted on Yik Yak after it was taken by the Black Grad Student Organization outside of the Neal Marshall Black Cultural Center. “IU STANDS WITH MIZZOU,” it says. There is strength in the photo, but it’s gentle as hell; the whole thing looks quite peaceful.

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A sampling of responses:

We got those images from a tipster: more are being posted online, including:

My immediate instinct is to dismiss anyone who makes a political statement of any sort on Yik Yak as about as foolish as a college student trying to convert her uncle to the opposite political party at Thanksgiving after everyone’s had too many wines. But that’s the wrong instinct. The app is becoming more “real,” as people make death threats and get arrested. And, whether we like it or not, Yik Yak is becoming an influential medium of expression on college campuses. Can you imagine being a black student and being constantly reminded, at the press of an iPhone icon, that the racism you sense via exclusions and offhand ignorance goes as deep in truth as “blafricoons”? Can you imagine, on the other hand, being a white student, and seeing a nice photo captioned “IU STANDS WITH MIZZOU” and wanting to tell those people to shut the fuck up?

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An essential reason that anti-racism protests prompt such an intense backlash is that anti-racism protestors necessarily make themselves visible to protest a force that is, to most people, invisible. And a strange function of reactionary politics is that it’s often via backlash, actually, that the depth of what people protest can finally be seen. “Where’s the racism?” says some Yik Yak idiot in Bloomington. Maybe in the active chapter of a white supremacy group on campus that calls diversity “white genocide.” Almost definitely right in front of that Yik Yak idiot’s eyes.

Updated to add a response from IU provost Lauren Robel:

To Our Community,

The Indiana University Police Department has reported a racist threat on anonymous social media. IU utterly condemns such reprehensible threats. IUPD does not believe that the post represents a credible threat of physical violence. Nonetheless, IUPD is on high alert and students, faculty, and staff should report any suspicious behavior immediately to the police at 812-855-8174.

We completely reject this cowardly and anonymous action, intended to inject fear and divisiveness into what should be an open and honest set of conversations about the state of inclusiveness in our community.

Lauren Robel

IU Bloomington Provost

It’s unclear whether the threat referenced is within any of the Yik Yaks posted above. Just another fun day in Yaks!


Images via Yik Yak, Twitter

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Contact the author at jia@jezebel.com.