Temira Lewis – Columnist, Senior
While I acknowledge the inclusivity and sense of community offered to me by those I choose to surround myself with at this university, to ignore that racism exists here would be a disservice to the preservation of my humanity and the humanity of all people of color.
Recent events at universities nationwide, specifically at the University of Missouri and our very own UD campus, have again brought to light issues that have been prevalent since the birth of our nation and have created a sense of tension in places where community is said to be valued and promoted. Too often, when the members of our “community” who are most affected by these problems speak up, it is labeled as whining, overreacting, or worse, cited as “reverse racism,” doing little other than intensifying the problem, hindering effective dialogue and preventing proactive change. And while it is fair that every student and citizen is permitted to express their opinions in the manner they choose, it is also fair, and quite necessary, to examine these ideals for what they are and whose culture they promote, especially within a greater societal context.
I know that many students here are so very tired and annoyed of hearing about race, as they have made clear time and time again. In a perfect world, the goal of a peaceful coexistence—where issues of race no longer needed to be discussed—would have already been attained, as it is a struggle millions worldwide have been tirelessly working at for centuries. But we don’t live in a perfect world. And until people are no longer plagued by the experience of racism, the inconvenience of hearing about it must persist.
As a black female student at this university, my personal experiences with racism have been few and far between. The rare occasion of slurs from white peers and racist comments across various social media platforms aimed at African-Americans in general are tolerable at best. What I find most striking is the effort we put into circumventing the acknowledgment of how these acts reflect and contribute to structural racism and the violent degradation of black humanity.
As a part of an institution based on Marianist values, one that is presumed to be committed to diversity and inclusion, I am concerned by the willingness of so many students to overlook and neglect such a serious issue, presenting it as the result of a society that is obsessed with political correctness and unhurt feelings.
In the past, the manifestation of racism was explicitly apparent and, therefore, more easily recognized, as it was upheld by laws, policies and language that clearly depicted the divide in equality. Today, however, people seem to struggle to understand the pervasiveness and consequences of the systems of inequality that are at work. From how the media reports on black victims and perpetrators of crime to the unequal treatment of African-Americans by law enforcement, these personal biases are not isolated posts on social media, but reflect a climate of racism that directly affects our perception of the black experience.
Furthermore, it is needless to say how people in positions of power who hold these discriminatory views can act in ways that disadvantage black Americans. Whether they are future police officers, educators or employers, simply ignoring racism will not absolve these people of their detrimental influence in restricting the self-determination of those they affect.
And let us not forget that one of the most heinous hate crimes against African-Americans within the last 50 years happened this year with the racially motivated killing of nine men and women inside of a Charleston church.
So perhaps before complaining about how bothersome it is for students on campus to talk about their experiences, to explain to their community why they feel the way they do, first listen—actively and intently— to the thoughts being presented. Then, make an effort to understand what they mean in the larger context, rather than immediately invalidating them.
The University of Dayton is a wonderful institution, but that does not mean we have no obligation to make it better, more welcoming and more encompassing of the values it was founded upon. UD is full of bright, sound individuals. It astonishes and disappoints me that so many students would be against cultivating an environment that promotes respect and equality for those who attend it.
If you want to get your voice heard, email Opinions Editor Steven Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org.