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Luther students of color say they've been on the receiving end of racist comments

Posted: Wed, May 1, 2019 5:50 PM

Luther students of color say the fear they experience from living in Decorah "is not unfounded."

Anna, a Luther College student who was born in Mexico, says when she speaks Spanish in Decorah, she's had people tell her, "Go back to Mexico—this is America, we speak English."

Diamond, another Luther College student, says, "People here (in Decorah) aren't used to our culture."

A Luther College student from Iraq says, "I really cannot be myself here…I have to put so much effort into not looking suspicious."

These three and several others told their stories this week to the Decorah Human Rights Commission in an outpouring that surprised Commission members by the number of students who wanted to share their stories.

Several students say they don't see efforts being made to improve the atmosphere in Decorah.  Says Rebecca, a first year student of color, "We need to educate people…(and) have open discussions about race."
Charmaine says she and a group of friends who were eating ice cream in Decorah had a young car driver slow down and yell racist comments at the group, adding, "It was not the first time it happened."

One of the members of the Decorah Human Rights Commission, Lisa Scott, who was recently promoted at Luther to the newly-created post of Vice President for Equity, Inclusion, and Student Success, says there currently is no mechanism for people in Decorah to report such incidents—and the Human Rights Commission is working to change that.

Another member of the Human Rights Commission, Decorah Police officer Brent Parker, agrees there's work that needs to be done and told students, "(Decorah Police) need to figure out a better way to interact with the Luther Community."

In the meantime, Charmaine has a suggestion to those Decorah residents making racist comments to students of color: "Enough. Just stop it."