“Riding the Yak” to Racism



Yik Yak, the popular social media site/app known for anonymous, often humorous, interactions has sparked racial controversy at SOU.

Wednesday SOU’s official Yik Yak feed contained a thread of racist comments from anonymous users. While the exact phrases used in the posts are currently unavailable, commentors on SOU’s page confirmed that the racist remarks directly threatened the black population in Southern Oregon.

President Roy Saigo addressed the racist Yak’s in a campus­ wide email. “I want to assure you that the University is working to identify those responsible for the posts, and although there are challenges presented by the anonymous nature of Yik Yak, if we are able to determine the responsible parties and discover that they are SOU students, will be subject to not only our internal disciplinary process, but possible prosecution as well.”

Saigo has encouraged students to fill out an SOU Cares report here, where they can share incidents of racism on campus. For those who may have been directly involved in the Yaks, the SOU Bias Response Team was recommended by Saigo during his response. Information on them can be found here.

Students at more than 1,500 colleges currently report using the application, with nearly 50% to 80% of enrolled students using the app, according to business insider.

Yik­ Yak has recently come under fire, as other reports of racism have surfaced at different universities across the nation. “This sort of misbehavior is NOT what Yik Yak is to be used for. Period,” co­-founder Brooks Buffington penned in a statement about the University of Missouri threats and protests roughly two weeks ago. “It is not condoned by Yik Yak, and it violates our terms of service.” Yik ­Yak internally deals with the threats themselves, taking down the posts. They are willing to cooperate with authorities, if need be.

As of right now, there have been no arrests made or a subject[s] named by SOU officials.

Racism on SOU’s Yik Yak, and Southern Oregon in general, is not a new phenomenon say  many students who say they have suffered from racism on social media.  “Oregon has a long, deep seated history of racism that its residents simultaneously ignore and perpetuate,” is just one post highlighting this. This post was then followed by the comment; “Who cares. It’s been over 100 years since the emancipation proclamation. Let the shit go. The only people who still believe in racism are black people, so they can complain about being victims.”

Although this specific comment hasn’t received much notoriety, it reveals that this is not the only time SOU’s Yik Yak feed has been infiltrated with posts of that nature.

“It is then no surprise to me our campus breeds racism underneath well refined “multiculturalism,” said SOU student and former ASSOU Director of Diversity, Ahsante Sankofa Foree, expressing their response to the current situation regarding racists post on Yik Yak.

“Our campus creates cultures of diversity and inclusion that keeps privilege comfortable and teaches oppressed communities to only speak when asked and then do so appropriately as to not upset the privileged,” says Ahsante.

Ahsante is also a member of the SOU Bias Response Team. The group’s mission is promoting an inclusive, bias-free campus at SOU through proactive education and responsive action to bias- related incidents.

“I personally only saw one racist comment, but other than that I haven’t seen anything racist. I have however seen a lot of comments that seem like people are being harassed. I think the way Yik Yak is set up the problem will solve itself, because if you downvote a yak enough it will be removed. All people have to do is down vote it or ignore the comments.” said Halee Hedgpeth an SOU student involved in Yik Yak said.

This appears to be an ongoing trend at universities across the United States. With racist Yik Yak posts becoming prevalent recently at the University of Missouri, and closer to home at Lewis and Clark College.

SOU is one of many schools that have proclaimed their support for students of color regarding the incident at the University of Missouri, this according to an article by the Black Tribune.

The issue of racist comments on Yik Yak are documented by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch examining the trend of anonymous users posting on public social media sites, particularly at Universities. Yik Yak in particular is notoriously known for having these types of racist or discriminatory posts, the article explains. In October the app was denounced by a coalition of 70 women’s and civil rights groups who claimed that the site is a place of “discrimination, harassment, and abuse.”