The Race Project: Cedarville (Part Two)
In part one of this story, we met Luke Mason, who is an African-American student at the predominantly White and Christian Cedarville University in 1981. On May 1st, a group of white students entered Luke's room with their faces covered and kidnapped him.
Luke Mason: It was in the evening. I couldn't tell who they were. All I know is that I was being hogtied where my hands were tied to my legs. I was thinking, 'Why are they doing this to me?' And then they took me and dropped me off. And when they dropped me, they dropped me on a marble table where both of my front teeth were broken and the other was crack. It was a crime. It might have been a prank, but what I'm saying is that there was no reaction by the school to the situation, no investigation. It just was as if it never happened.
Narrator: Here's Carl Ruby, Luke's freshman roommate at Cedarville and a lifelong friend.
Carl Ruby: I think there are two possibilities in the motivation for this event: they meant to harm Luke and they meant to scare Luke. Another possibility is these are kids who grew up in an exclusively white world and were just totally naïve as to how terrifying that would be.
Luke: In this day, you know, they would psychologically analyze me and say, 'Okay, he's really distraught from the situation.' And I had to make decisions as to whether I would ever come back to that campus again. And I didn't. I just basically called my mother and told her 'I fell.' She never, ever knew what transpired.
Carl: If you were a Black student back then, I think the culture would not have allowed you to say, 'Something racial just happened. I was a victim of racial harassment.' Especially at a campus like Cedarville. There's so much invested in protecting the reputation that bad things don't happen here. I didn't know the details until a year or so ago. I was looking around on Facebook and this post popped up from Luke and it was it was a long one. Luke does not post a lot on Facebook. So it kind of stood out and he described his experience about what had happened to him on a Christian college campus.
Luke: I did the posting and what happened was I woke up that day and I started tearing up and thinking about, 'Oh, my goodness. This is actually 40 years since this situation transpired on campus.' I had to post and talk about what actually hit me at that time in 1981 of May 1st, that changed my life.
Narrator: Federal hate-crime legislation was on the books in 1981, and what happened to Luke Mason appears to fit the definition. But no charges were ever brought against the students who perpetrated these acts against him. And for 40 years no one in the Cedarville administration reached out to him either. But after reading Luke's Facebook post last year, his former roommate and lifelong friend Carl Ruby, decided he had to break the silence.
Carl: When I saw his post, I thought it was important that I weigh in and say, 'I was Luke's roommate, and I remember this.' That's when I learned more of the details of what it actually happened to him. Yeah, it's just, you know, we had never talked about that incident in all the years that have intervened. The fact that I could have heard about something like that, and not raised flags? You know, I'm ashamed of that. You know, I'm ashamed to admit that I could have been part of the culture back then. And not realized how inappropriate and evil it was.
Narrator: After reading Luke's Facebook post Carl Ruby reached out to the president of Cedarville University.
Carl: I wanted to see something redemptive come out of this. Luke was totally surprised when he got a call from the president.
Luke: And I said, 'Hello, and who is this?' And he said, This is Tom White. And I said, okay. And I said, Karl did call me about you. And it was just a delight to hear from him, because then he went on to offer his apologies for what happened in my life 40 years previous.
Carl: A phone call doesn't make up for what happened, but I think it's so important that we acknowledge our part in racism and that racism happens in institutions that we control. And I talked to Luke after he had a conversation with Dr. White, and I just know that it meant a great deal to him.
Luke: I was absolutely thankful for my former roommate, Pastor Carl Ruby, and for his boldness to challenge them to do what should have been done long ago.
For 'Race Project: Cedarville (Part One)' follow the link.
The Race Project is produced by Basim Blunt at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices.