While many cheered on the Vols Tuesday night against Mississippi State, on senior night, dozens of students at the University of Tennessee protested the administration’s response to the Snapchat photo of what appears to be a couple of UT students in blackface.
Their rally to Thompson-Boling Arena included chants like “Blackface has no place,” “no justice, no peace,” and “this is what unity looks like.”
Caitlin Lloyd was one of a few organizers of the rally Tuesday. Lloyd was more than willing to speak on the record about what organizing the event was necessary, in her view.
“It’s important they hear us and the listen to us and they see us. By doing this tonight, we’re showing that UT needs to listen to us and we’re willing to get in front of national cameras to say this needs to happen,” she said.
She’s part of UT Diversity Matters. Lloyd explained the organization formed in 2016 after the state legislature cut funds to UT’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She said there has been a reboot following the blackface controversy.
Justin Hill was linking arms with friends, walking toward Thompson-Boling Arena when we spoke to him. He believes many on the campus aren’t treated “right, equally and fairly.”
“I’m angry. I’m really mad that I feel my voice doesn’t matter. The fact that I feel like the voices of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters do not matter. I’m sick and tired of feeling like anything related to racism or homophobia or whatever, people get away with it,” Hill said.
Ahmon Watkins says he’s been discriminated against before, had racial slurs directed toward him. At times, he explained, he’s felt uncomfortable. Watkins also wanted to make it clear not everybody at the University shares the negative sentiment of the few in the photo.
Maria Urias is a Student Government Association Senator. She feels the student code of conduct doesn’t have an anti-racism provision, which is something she advocated for Tuesday night.
“So many of my closest friends have come to me crying. I’ve seen the pain at these forums and we’re not ok with it,” she said.
Dalton Teel shared his take on the controversy.
“What’s upsetting about this entire experience is, it’s a cycle. It’s a cycle that we see every semester, every school year. The pain that people of color experience is unprecedented and it’s uncalled for.”
While it may have been uncomfortable for some in line to the stadium, to some students, that was the whole point.
“If they can cheer for our black athletes, then they can stand with our black students,” he said.