In the past few months, the nation has been gripped with a discussion about race and racism. It’s a discussion that we need to have, and last semester showed me that when Union students care deeply about an issue, they will work to make a difference.
Last semester, Harvey Hall erupted in heated debate as senators fought over a resolution to ban the popular app Yik Yak.
The debate went on for more than an hour. To quote one friend, “hell was raised.”
Regardless of what you think about banning an application, students at Union used the forum of Student Senate to discuss issues like cyberbullying and anonymous sexual harassment.
Let’s not stop there.
Students at Union need to do more about other issues facing our campus. While people seem to love a good talk about social media, few are willing to address other, deeper issues that face people daily.
After the ban was passed, I joined a conversation with several African American students.
Those students pointed out that an issue like bullying on Yik Yak was a mere “speck” compared to the racism they face daily.
When the bill sponsors mentioned earlier the racial slurs found on Yik Yak, I nodded in agreement that those slurs were terrible. But later I learned that several minority students in the room considered those comments to be insignificant in light of the comments they hear and the looks they receive every single day.
Racism—whether intentional or unintentional—is a very real problem on this campus, as it is in the rest of the United States.
Often this might be subtle or unintentional racism. At Union this has involved professors calling on the lone black student to give the “black perspective,” implying that all members of a minority are the same. Sometimes it has meant Caucasian students treating interracial relationships with disgust.
The more blatant forms of racism often rear their heads on social media, from the anonymous Yak that said, “I like my coffee black … I like it so black, I only drink 3/5ths of it” to tweets about how minorities need to “#growaspine.”
When a chapel speaker discusses race, Twitter can explode with insensitivity. I recall one tweet that even mocked African American vernacular based on the “Amens” heard from the chapel audience.
As a white student, I’ll never know how much racism on this campus affects my classmates who are minorities. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be as vocal as I can about the issue.
In May 2013, 88 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of whites said there is “a lot” or “some” discrimination against blacks, according to Pew Research Center. In an August 2013 poll also by Pew, 79 percent of blacks said “a lot” more needed to be done to achieve racial equality.
What Senate showed me is that when students care about an issue, we’ll talk about it, we’ll debate about it and we’ll do our best to make a difference with whatever tools we have at our disposal.
I don’t think there is one “solution” to racism, but it’s time we began talking about racism, started doing something. Where do we start? I’m not sure. But we need to start somewhere.
It’s time we started speaking up about the fact that human beings are regularly treated as lesser beings because of the color of their skin.
This is a Christian university. Let’s strive to live like it.