Local psychology professor explains why PSU letter could be racist

Local News

HUNTINGDON, HUNTINGDON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — “Racism still exists, it’s transformed. Today it’s symbolic racism in ways that people may hold sexist or racist even though they’re not aware that those beliefs are racist,” said Philip Dunwoody: Juniata College Psychology Professor

Professor Philip Dunwoody says that’s the case in the letter sent to a Jonathan Sutherland, a black Penn State Football Player with dreadlocks.

Something the player has said are a part of his identity.

Dunwoody, in analyzing the letter, says it’s writer, a PSU alum believes in a specific image of what a football player should look like, clean cut.

“That’s based on an experience and a time at Penn State when the institution was white when there wasn’t the diversity you have there today, so this sense of what a proper Penn State looks like is probably rooted in his past,” said Dunwoody.

“The institution’s changed, the demographics have changed, and it sounds like he’s having trouble coming to terms with that,” said Dunwoody

Some may raise the question if criticism of dreadlocks is definitively racist towards African Americans.

“Dreadlocks are associated with African Americans for sure… you do certainly see white people with dreadlocks as well, especially in hippie communities,” said Dunwoody

But feels, in this case, the intent of this message is clear

“The message this sends is that yes, you can come into Penn State as an institution, but only if you act in ways that are white,” said Dunwoody.

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