Bananas hung in nooses were found on American University's campus on Taylor Dumpson's first day as student government president. She's the first African-American woman in the role.
In her first interview after the racist acts, Dumpson told News4 on Wednesday that she wants to foster improved communication among students.
"Everyone is hurting on this," she said.
"Cross-cultural communication is the key," she continued. "Because we aren't in a post-racial society. But I think the way to move towards a better society, and a more inclusive society, is to really focus on and appreciate the differences among us. Because what makes us different is very, very important."
Bananas were found hanging from nooses Monday in at least three locations on AU's campus. The bananas were marked with the letters "AKA," the abbreviation for the historically black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. Dumpson is an AKA member. Hundreds of students protested, walking out of a campus townhall and symbolically signing paperwork to withdraw from the school.
Dumpson said she was doing as well despite the situation. She said she was overwhelmed by messages of support she had received from across the country.
Though many students say the university has not done enough to respond to multiple racist acts, Dumpson said she appreciated the school's response to the latest incident.
"I'm very supported by the university," she said. "I'm proud of the way they've handled it. It's been very direct. It's been very transparent so far."
The Salisbury, Maryland, native studying law said she had already encountered racism on campus. During her freshman year, a flurry of racist comments by purported AU students were posted on the social media app Yik Yak. The app lets users within a 10-mile radius post comments and replies anonymously.
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But she said she was glad she stayed.
"Staying at AU was one of the best decisions I ever made," Dumpson said. "I think at the end of the day, going through the adversity that I faced in the past three years has molded me into the person that I am, into the leader I'm becoming. I don't think I would truly be who I am, standing in front of you, if it wasn't for the American University."
She said her parents raised her to be ready to face racism.
"They recognized that we did not grow up in a post-racial society and that there were going to be situations where I was going to have to stand my own," she said. "From a young age, they prepared me for that, now this is the time for me to let that shine and let that show."