Black. 6’2. Sweatpants. Glue gun. Active Shooter at Colgate University.

Dear Readers,

My name is Angel Trazo. I am an Asian-American woman, and I am a senior at Colgate Unversity. This is my attempt to not be complicit regarding the events of last night and today.

TLDR;

On May 1st, 2017, an “active shooter” alert was sent to all members of the Colgate community. The school was put under lockdown from roughly 8 PM-Midnight. SWAT, FBI, National Guard, and an armored car appeared at Colgate University. The all-clear was made. As it turns out, a black Colgate student holding a glue gun was deemed an “active shooter” by Colgate authorities. He was trying to finish a project for his class “The American School.”

This is an example of the criminalization of black bodies. This is an example of the racist and prejudiced biases that exist at our institution. This is a call to action to do better.

TRIGGER WARNING** This post contains content about racism and references to police brutality**

That Night

Timeline of the Night

On May 1st, 2017, the Colgate University campus was shook by the news of an “active shooter.” These alerts were sent through e-mail, the Colgate Mobile App, and text.

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I was in the second floor of the library studying with a friend when we received the first email at 8:06 pm. Students around us were frantic, speaking loudly on the quiet floor of the library. Students were grabbing backpacks and laptops, rushing up and down staircases, and seeking out friends. Then, a voice came from the library-wide intercom speaker, and announced, “Case Library is on lockdown. Do not leave the building.”

I was startled and unsure what to do. Students began grouping together in their friend circles on the floor around the library shelves. I tried to focus on typing up my Studio Art Honors Thesis defense and gave up. Instead, I catered to my social media. By this point, I had received numerous texts, from friends at Colgate, friends from home, my mom, all asking what was happening.

By 9 pm, rumors were flying. GroupMe’s were lit with update after update. Messages spread about the armed shooter having a friend. Shots were heard at an academic building. One of the culprits committed suicide. The other man was running through Broad Street. [These were all just rumors. None of this happened.]

At about 10 pm, an announcement was made over the library intercom announcing that all students had to move to the first floor. People remained frenzied and unable to focus on work.

Meanwhile, I learned that students were hiding all over campus– several had hidden in their science labs, others had grouped in the closet of the Chapel Basement, some had gathered in dorm rooms to sit in darkness together. People had barricaded their rooms. Sweaters were tied across windows to block outside gazes. We were told not to answer any knocks on doors. Anxiety was high. Many feared their lives.

It had been four hours when we received the final alert. Then, a follow-up email was sent by the Dean of the College.

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The email failed to address the race of the student who had been implicated as an “active shooter.” He was a black student named Ben. He was a black student who had been using a glue gun for arts and crafts.

WAIT. What? I was shook by this outcome.

This was the description used by police officers:

Armed?

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The alleged arms weapon was found at the Coop.

Video of black student telling what happened

Active Shooter

Active shooter, by definition, is a person with intent to kill. The administration did not address how someone calling in a “dangerous person” escalated to the entire student body and our families receiving news that an active shooter was on campus. How was leap made? Where did this intent come from, if not the color of this student’s skin? As the emails said, no shots were fired. Was this student’s blackness enough to merit an “intent to kill”?

Regardless of how this leap in logic was made, the “threat” was taken seriously… perhaps, even too seriously. I would later come to learn that during the “investigation,” multiple authorities had been called to action.

Within three hours, Colgate had brought a SWAT team, the National Guard, the FBI, and an armored car.

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While people have argued that Colgate deserves accolades for keeping our student body safe…

Colgate put all students on a four hour lockdown for an active shooter that did not exist, and in doing so, put this black student’s life in danger.

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Excerpt from the Washington Post.

Sure, had there been a real shooter, Colgate did a hell of a good job finding means of protection. I have heard from Colgate faculty members that was no protocol, so they called every forceful protective entity under the moon.

But to what extent would Colgate have protected the black student who was wrongly accused? Colgate had put his life in danger.

Within minutes of the all-clear, Facebook blew up

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(These are only a handful of my friends’ posts on Facebook. Many more were posted, some regarding Colgate’s attempt to keep us safe, others debating whether or not this issue was racist, more simply revealing the all-clear and our safety.)

And the Colgate meme page BLEW. UP.

 

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Yes.
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These meme cleverly references the controversial Pepsi Ad which has been criticized for co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement… and solving protests by opening a can of Pepsi.
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Thanks, Colgate.

 

The Next Day

 

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We were ready to rally. 

 

CLAP-CLAP-CLAP. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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CLAP-CLAP-CLAP. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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Posters at the Center for Women’s Studies #BlackLivesMatter

CLAP-CLAP-CLAP. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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A poster for the alleged “armed shooter,” my Colgate peer, Ben.

CLAP-CLAP-CLAP. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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A member of the Class of 2017 sports a “?” over his Colgate attire. The “?” symbol was used during the 2014 ACC Protest, a movement motivated by the desire for equal treatment of all students at Colgate.

CLAP-CLAP-CLAP. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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A member of the Class of 2017 has written “Black Lives Matter” on the Class of ’17 shirt we received during our orientation in Fall of 2013.

CLAP-CLAP-CLAP. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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Posters taped to the wall at the Coop, the location where Ben, the alleged “armed” man was first spotted with his glue gun.

CLAP-CLAP-CLAP. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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Students gathered in the Academic Quad at 11:30 am. Photo by the Office of Sustainability.

CLAP-CLAP-CLAP. BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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A drawing I created during the protest – Angel Trazo ’17

Rain drizzled down across the quad. Hundreds of students were clapping and chanting “Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!” For twenty minutes, our voices rang against the chilled, spring air, across the quad, amidst students, faculty, and staff. People of color. White allies and supporters.

After 20 minutes, the chants died out from one end to the other. We had a moment of silence for Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old boy who was recently shot. Another victim of the criminalization of black bodies.

After the silence, the circle of people around the quad came together into the quad’s center. A main organizer of this protest, Sydni Bond ’18, made her intentions for this event clear. It was created to stand in solidarity against the racist injustices of last night, and to urge the administration to ensure that events like this will not be repeated. It was an event to gain awareness around supporting the parents of Jordan Edwards who were not prepared to bury their 15-year-old son. (Please donate if you can: Donate to Jordan Edwards’ Memorial Fund).  It was created for people of color to be seen and heard. It was a moment to show what a Colgate community could be. It was a symbol that we were not complacent with the current racial climate on our campus.

Various students shared their thoughts in light of these events. I have recorded several quotes in my drawing.

A black student dressed in all red, red cap with a hood on his head, stood in the middle of the crowd. He was Ben. He was the “active shooter.”

He told the crowd that he’d heard that people had been told that he’d been using a glue gun for an art project. The project he as working on was actually for a class titled, “The American School.” The project was on meritocracy.

The irony.

Ben said, “The idea of meritocracy says that if you work hard, you’ll be successful… I tried to do the right thing, and they [Colgate] called the National Guard.” Ben urged onlookers to fight against the racism committed against him last night. “We need to BELIEVE that all people are EQUAL. Change starts from within.”

Meritocracy does not apply to people of color.

I am a Filipino-American from California. From an early age, I was indoctrinated in the notion of an American Dream, of meritocracy. Little did I know, there were systems in place that limited and hindered my capacity to succeed. I live in a society where racial hierarchies prevail. Where white supremacy is real. Where societal oppression renders its ugly head in more ways then one, in more forms of violence than physical violence.

No one was shot last night, but people are hurting.

Students are hurting because Colgate as an institution continues to remain entrenched in its legacy of systematic oppression. It retains its prejudice against people of color, despite it advertising otherwise.

“It is so simultaneously painful and sad to believe that meritocracy exists among people of color. That meritocracy applies to people of color and the achievement of their dreams,” said Esther Rosbrook, Assistant Director of Residential Life.

Ben is a fellow student. Ben was just trying to be a student, and this happened.

Conversations

Following the event, I went to the Center for Women’s Studies. They were kindly providing pizza and ice cream for students affected by these events. While there, Esther and I began asking students how they felt about the event, the protest, and the current campus climate.

“I don’t even have the right words right now. Obviously this is real, it happens all the time— every day. It’s just disgusting. It’s just so messed up. There are so many layers to it. It’s deeply rooted. It’s a mindset that’s very individual but also institutional,” said senior, Jazmyn McKoy ’17, a POC.

“What does it feel like to be villainized like this? What does the trauma enacted on people’s bodies feel like? I’m not him. But I’m black, and 5’10.. This could have been me. It’s just…” said Michael James ‘17, a POC.

“I do this, too,” a young black boy stared at my fingers flying across my Mac keyboard. He was a child of someone in WMST and had sat himself on a chair next to me and across the table from Michael. “I like to write stories,” he said proudly.

Michael said to the young, black boy, “Write your stories dude, because your stories are important. Your stories matter. When you go through school, people will grade you on your writing, but don’t let people dissuade you.”

Bilal Badruddin, POC, and Assistant to the Associate Vice President and Dean for Residential Programs and Student Support said, “I think a lot of things. Like… like i’m not surprised because Colgate has a history of targeting people of color, but Colgate also has a history of not supporting people of color. So you want to target them and you also don’t want to support them.”

“It’s a double-whamy!” Rosbrook interjected.

“It’s also really interesting how they’re really quick to come out with descriptions [of the black, 6’2 man in sweats and without a shirt]. But now that Colgate realized they fucked up, they’re not doing anything to fix it… Right? In their statement, no where in there did they say it was a racist incident. They didn’t say the person was a black man.” [In reference to the initial Dean of the College email.] “The university really needs to do better with terminology. An armed person is different than an active shooter.” And neither an armed person nor active shooter carry glue guns…

“I’m leaving, so I see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I wanted to take all the POC students with me. Colgate doesn’t deserve them.

If Colgate didn’t admit, POC, so many colored students would be happy because the institution doesn’t deserve them, and white people can be happy in their complacency and ignoring these [racial] issues.

If Colgate can’t support POC, they shouldn’t admit them.”

Interestingly, Bilal also added, “Where was President Casey [during the protest]?Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 6.42.11 PM.png Because he sent an email during it.”

 

**UPDATE**

On May 3rd, I had emailed Brian Casey regarding this blog post. After reading it, he addressed this question of attendance. 

“I did come to the protest on Tuesday. Yes, I had to finish the email– as you might imagine, those are not simple messages to create and I needed to finish it up with accuracy and care, and I also didn’t want to delay it any further– I was able to press send and then get up there. And I was happy I did.” – Brian Casey, President of Colgate University.

President Casey also told me that he was surprised “a woman had written this post.” Apparently, I’m “a great storyteller. Compelling. You should go to Cal Arts and keep using art to tell these stories”… but the fact that he misgendered my work, and gendered it at all, made me feel uncomfortable.

“What do I think?” said Chimebere Nwaoduh, a POC, Colgate alumn and current Colgate staff member. “I am shaken because I am nervous it [attention for this incident] will die down and that people are not open for conversations and criticism. For people not to acknowledge that people are hurt is ….*sigh* … Remember, people were stuffed in the closet for the false alarm, but that falseness was a result of racism! As a staff member, I am so confused about what I should be engaged with.”

“It’s FUCKING RACIAL PROFILING,” Woohee Kim ’18, a Korean international student, declared. “It’s fucking racist shit. And it’s so fucking racist that this fucking student was racially stereotyped to the point that one student labeled a black student, trying to do an art project with a glue gun, as an armed shooter, as a perceived threat! And what people were saying today… about how this black student could have been killed. He could have been shot. And just reading those institutional responses… How Colgate, first of all, brought a National Guard, SWAT team, and FBI in less than 3 hours… but it’s taken decades and hasn’t still been acknowledged that everyday violence happens to POC.”

Bilal came back into the conversation, adding that, “The 21 points from the ACC protest have still not been accomplished. But they are checked off… even though they are all not complete. These points could have made Colgate a place where POC were happier… For the juniors, you have a whole ‘nother year here. And you’ve been through ACC and now this… I feel for them. A number of POC are athletes or OUS, you get great financial aid. It’s as if Colgate is paying a lot of students of color to come here. And it sucks because yes, students want a great education and can’t always afford it. But it’s like… Colgate is trying to sell their happiness.”

“I’m pissed,” Jon Williams ’17, POC, responds. “To think that we go to school here and then people are going to try to normalize this shit. In the basement of the library, I already heard, ‘Oh, we can’t be sure this is about race.'”

“All lives matter… Everyone gets a seat at the table… this is how we cope with white fragility,” said a friend.

“Where’s my seat. I’m still trying to find my seat at the table,” Jon joked.

 

Solidarity

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As I craft this blog post, Woohee Kim ’18, my fellow OASIS Core member and bffl attempts to keep up with social media developments.

“What are you doing babe?” I ask across the table to my friend, Woohee Kim ’18.

Breathlessly, she replied, “Trying to catch up on facebook, email, I also want to email the OASIS Core (Organization of Asian Sisters in Solidarity) and tell them how COMPLICIT we fucking are.”

“Wait, how are we being complicit?” I ask.

“As in, like, just telling them how we are talking about this, assuring that we are a group in solidarity and that we will not brush this off. As we are a group of people of color, it is important for us to make it known that we hear our fellow students, our black students.”

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I will stand in solidarity with my fellow students.

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Many of us are standing in solidarity.

Next Steps

While I was writing this, I thought about how screwed I am for the defense of my art thesis tomorrow. My main priority is usually school, but I have decided to dedicate a large part of my day to reflecting on the events of yesterday and today. I am dedicated to combating racism and prejudice in my community.

However, with final assignments and final exams burdening our shoulders during these last two weeks of class, it will be immensely difficult to maintain this dedication toward activism. I acknowledge that we are all busy.

But I urge you, dear reader, to not be complicit. Activism is not a once-a-month check mark off a to-do list. Hundreds of students attended today’s “Black Lives Matter” protest, but what happens next? How will you ensure that this issue does not fade away, does not, once again, escape the institutional radar, only to become re-opened at the next act of blatant racism? Why does it take such a large-scale event for Colgate to remember that Blacks Live Matter?

Have conversations with friends about this event. Make waves on social media. Influence those around you to make this campus a more inclusive place. Find an ally to tell your story when you need time and space to rest– when you, as I have felt, are tired of explaining that your humanity should be equal to white humanity. Bring your concerns to the administration. Urge them to be accountable. Keep the conversation alive.

News Coverage

A few notes regarding news coverage by external media outlets:

As of May 2nd, only the Washington Post has acknowledged the race of the alleged “active shooter.” Articles by the Philadelphia Tribune, much like the initial email from the Colgate administration, failed to acknowledge the racial component of this event.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 2.59.47 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-05-02 at 3.01.25 PM.png

 

 

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Many articles also failed to acknowledge the fact that we were send emails that used the language “active shooter.” Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 3.29.14 PM.png

 

**UPDATE** As of May 4th, several articles have addressed the fact that this was a racial incident and included the violent language (“armed shooter”) used by the administration during the lock-down.

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21 thoughts on “Black. 6’2. Sweatpants. Glue gun. Active Shooter at Colgate University.

  1. Great post, I appreciate how thorough this is given you had the opportunity to write it from campus. You’re absolutely right that implicit racism played a role here, but it worries me that someone could write an equally long post about how America’s gun culture played a role. I’m not saying that to imply you’re wrong or undermine any of your post; rather to bring up how two very old problems in America – racism against African-Americans and guns/violence as an emotional outlet – came together to make the perfect storm that could have led to a student’s death at the hands of the authorities.

    What happened at Colgate is awful and I’m glad people are calling it out for what it is. How many more shootings at college campuses must we endure before we address the gun problem in America? How many more black children need to be labeled a threat (#jordanedwards) before we address the problem of racist policing? We can be thankful that this didn’t end worse, but it’s refreshing to see so many students come together to make sure it doesn’t go down this way this next.

    Like

    1. you’re attempts to piggy back on the murder and weaponizing and of black bodies with a “gun rights” agenda is transparent is grossed.

      black people have been killed in America , and abroad, by any inanimate tool (noose, car, knife, fists, whip, dogs..etc) wielded by anti black racism.

      STOP with the Liberal Political BS. This happened at Colgate. Black people know ya’ll don’t care through comments like this.

      Like

    2. Mascherano didn’t have a great game last night, but I like him. He was good in the WC – I hoped that Lord Wrigley would sign him, as it wouldn’t surprise me if he is better than Hargreaves.Also he’s a face – always makes me think of Bugs Bunny – and United are all about enlyntainment.Firalte, he likes poetry: if he was at the Theatre of Wet Dreams I could sing some Atahualpa for him, and he’d surely get me a free ticket and a prawn sandwich.

      Like

  2. If the cops would have killed him we’d be getting the usual, “he deserves it because he stole a pack of gum from a convenience store back in elementary school,” type comments. And of course no justice for the young man and his family because, “all lives matter.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And I thought millenials were bad

    the next-gen drama queens are going to be off the hook. Basically, nothing, no matter how trivial, will escape their keen eye for an opportunity to virtue signal themselves into exhaustion, insisting that the world will end unless the world wakes up to the injustice that is “some shit that happened today”.

    Like

    1. Hey. Very nice web site!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your website and take the feeds al&#3o82&0;Is#8217;m satisfied to locate so much useful info right here in the article. Thank you for sharing…

      Like

  4. Lord Sandwich you are Lord Dick Bag. Millennials, Next Gen etc. We are bad because what… We are allowed to speak at the dinner table?
    You are bashing this piece because it upsets you that the importance in acknowledging racial profiling/bias etc. in this case is being mentioned?
    There is SO much wrong with this incident and your comment only exemplifies why we haven’t gotten past such disturbing issues. Sending out email blasts that there is an “active shooter” on campus, which first off was false and a very dangerous leap… And then describing him simply as “black, 6’2” and “could have weapon in his waistband”— so essentially that if he is a tall black man it could be the “active shooter” even if you cannot see said “gun” it could be concealed in his waistband, otherwise endangering the majority of black man on campus that evening (a generalization, but with the dangerous generalizations and biases thrown around that night I suspect my generalization is the mind set that campus security was working under). The National Guard was there, the FBI, SWAT— it is a blessing that no one was shot. Yet, this blog post to you is just “drama.” You piece of shit…

    Like

  5. I’m sorry this happened. It was wrong, and I’m sorry.

    In this day and age, there’s no such thing as an anonymous report–I would like to see Colgate deal severely with the student(s) who raised false alarm through the university’s student disciplinary procedures, given that bias and racial profiling were factors. This is far beyond an innocent “oops, my bad,” and needs to be addressed from that perspective.

    I would also expect Colgate to immediately institute an interim policy, and devote summer recess to developing a research-based, permanent policy to roll out in time for fall semester. It is absolute bullshit that in America in 2017, any college or university does not have a plan for how to deal with an armed shooter.

    It is also absolute bullshit that in America in 2017, racism remains an issue. It’s time for all them hettera-sec-shoo-ul male, all-white, alt-right, Iz-lam hatin’ (which they’ve got to be really vocal about, now that they can’t openly hate the Jews or the Blacks), Evangelical Protestant xenophobic White Boys to get over themselves.

    Fun fact #1: Black people, native and indigenous people. Asian people, Irish people, women, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and atheists–even gay folx(!)–have all received full franchise.

    Fun fact #2: We outnumber the White Boys. Their worst fears are that we’ll get together and talk to each other. That we’ll unite. That we’ll stop buying their cheap crap that’s designed to fail and dehumanizes and devalues each of us individually and collectively. That we’ll vote. That when we vote, we’ll vote them out of office.

    The pen is mightier than the sword, friends. Keep educating, keep writing, and keep voting. Let’s do it. Let’s change our nation. Let’s vote out the White Boys. Every.last.one. No incumbents and no intolerance in 2018, 2020, 2022.

    This shit is wrong. It can’t happen here any more.

    Like

  6. MORRÍ UMA E OUTRA E OUTRA VEZ!Eles estão muit muito lindos, essa música é muito viciante, amei cada parte desse MV *—-* A voz do Changjo esta tão madura, outro maknae mais que esta crescendo ;____; L.Joe sentando Like a Boss e o meu Niel encima *OOOOO* A cada MV eles me matam, cheio de sorrisos, winks, olhares, se eles contuniarem assim não vai sobrar nenhuma Andromeda D: Meus lindos voltaram com tudo <3333

    Like

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