Hello, friends. My name's Stephen LaConte, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed, and according to my friends and family, I'm pretty darn good at giving advice.
So I've invited the world to message me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places) with your biggest problems — and I'm solving 'em right here on BuzzFeed, one DM at a time. Let's get right to it.
Today, we've got this young woman, whose classmate recently called her a racial slur during a Zoom meeting:
I'm so sorry that this happened, and I'm also sorry that none of your classmates intervened to help you. Before I get into my advice, here's a reminder to all BuzzFeed readers to speak up when you see stuff like this happen — especially if you're white and have the privilege of calling out racism without risking its worst consequences.
Defending others in situations like this can feel scary and uncomfortable, but it's still important to do. It's not okay to let racist attacks like this go unchecked, and expecting the victim to do the work of fixing it herself is completely unacceptable. Someone else needs to step up — and if you're a white person in the room, there's a pretty good chance that someone is you.
So I'm gonna give advice to our DMer now, but for the record, this really shouldn't be her problem to solve, and it's a failure of her classmates on that Zoom call that she's navigating this alone.
Having said that, here's what I think you should do, DMer: whatever the heck you're comfortable with.
If confronting this guy would make you anxious, or if you simply don't want to take that on, I'd encourage you to let a faculty member deal with it instead. It sounds like your professor was not present when this slur was said, so you should probably fill them in first and foremost.
Let your professor know what happened and if there are any specific actions you want them to take. You mentioned the possibility of being removed from the group, but I think you should ask for the racist guy to be removed instead. He's the one who committed the offense, and your education shouldn't have to take a hit because of his bigotry.
After that, if you'd like to see this guy face more serious consequences, I hope you'll consider escalating the issue to people above your professor. If your school has given you an advisor, that's a good place to start. Or if there's a dean of students, they might be a good resource too.
I don't know what specific actions your school would be willing to take, of course, but it's worth finding out. I doubt this is the first time this guy has thrown racial epithets around, and in the interest of protecting other students of color from future attacks, your school needs to deal with him, immediately and decisively. The good news is there are multiple witnesses who can confirm your report.
As for whether you should approach this guy directly? If you want to do that, by all means, do it! But don't feel like you have to. It's not your job to educate this person about why what he said is wrong, and you should feel 100% free to let your school handle him instead if you'd rather just focus back on your studies.
And that brings me to my last piece of advice: I hope you can find a way through this with minimal disruption to your education. Experiences like this can be traumatic, and can zap you of time, focus, and energy you need to excel in school. So if there's any additional support you need to feel comfortable in your classroom again — whether it's a few days off, an extension on the project, and/or a guarantee that you'll never have to work with this individual again — you should ask for it. Your professor owes you that much. And more.
Again, I'm so sorry that this happened. I hope your school takes the incident seriously, and that the consequences this person faces are severe. This might be one lesson he learns the hard way. Frankly, I'd love to see it.
That's all the advice I'm giving today, folks, but if you've got any words of wisdom for our DMer, please share them in the comments. I'll be reading.