A standing room only crowd of over 135 people gathered on the campus of Kansas State University Polytechnic in Salina Thursday to discuss racism. The topic, and discussion, were inspired by recent offensive racial activity that took place on the campus of Bethany College last month.
Will Jones, president of Bethany College, presented “Choosing Our Response to Racism: The Bethany Event.” Steve Rivers, community relations for the City of Salina, and John Burchill, associate professor of criminal justice at Kansas Wesleyan University also spoke.
Burchill began by presenting a brief history of racism in Kansas. Jones then discussed the Bethany incident.
Back on September 3rd, racial messages written in chalk were left on sidewalks on the Bethany campus. They included the message “make Lindsborg white again”, and also a chalk outline of a body with the inscription, “Rest in peace my friend.”
Jones later received a couple of calls from a person revealing the motive. The person was upset about Jones having a couple of adopted biracial children. Also, at the start of the school year Jones had washed the feet of a student on stage to demonstrate his commitment as a christian. That student happened to be an African American. The caller also was angry about Bethany’s recruitment of students of color.
Jones said that after details of the incident became public an outpouring of support began to roll in. Organizations and government bodies all over the country have publicly supported his family and school. He added that he has received over 500 messages, cards, and letters from all over the world.
Burchill, who teaches at rival Kansas Wesleyan, has been one of Jones’s most vocal supporters. Before the event on Thursday, the two had never met face to face. Burchill said “Dr. King had a dream, but Lindsborg woke up to a nightmare that day in September.”
Jones told KSAL News that the incident is a demonstration of how a community can not only stand up to racism but also turn anger into love.
Among those in the crowd Thursday were students from K-State, Bethany College, Kansas Wesleyan University, and Salina Area Technical College.