Forum: Support and uplift the voices fighting to be heard

Marisa Kent

If we look at what is happening at the University of Missouri, we see a highly charged situation fraught with racism that observers refuse to identify as racism. Despite the fact that there have been white students driving around in trucks threatening black students, and then shooting and death threats visible on multiple social media platforms, observers still hesitate to call these threats racist. Reading comments from students across the country displays that, more often than not, students of color bear the responsibility to prove that what is happening in Missouri are acts of racism. This is worrisome for even communities in Texas as Texas shares similarities with Missouri politically. At our own university, we are currently debating the issue of campus carry, and amongst those debates includes the very real issue that the law can compromise the safety of some students for the “safety” of others. As is currently the case for Missouri, the threat of violence, whether with campus carry present or not, risks lowering the quality of education that a university can provide.

This is the problem — discrimination and prejudice reside as elephants in the room for marginalized communities, but we do not want to discuss these issues on a structural level. UT lacks diversity in terms of minority populations. Almost half of this campus is white, the other half are Asian and Hispanic. Our Black students make up 4 percent of our population if we look at numbers for the beginning of the fall semester, but that number tends to drop as the semester progresses. Our Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population never sit above 1 percent. The student populations are not diverse, and often neither are the faculty nor staff those students learn from. The lack of diversity in the seats of the classroom, at the front of the classroom, and in the administration of our university fail to provide a myriad of perspectives. Without diverse perspectives, the University cannot truly open the door for conversations and education about race to take place.

Queer People of Color and Allies (QPOCA) dedicates its mission to fostering an educational environment focused on the intersection of queer identities with different races and ethnicities because those intersections provide a unique way of experiencing the world that is not fully encapsulated by either the queer community or varying people of color communities alone. We focus on educating our own community and the communities we engage with every day. We have an opportunity as an agency of the Multicultural Engagement Center to have strong voices and presence throughout the different communities on campus and have access to resources to put on great programming. QPOCA strives not only to offer a brave space for queer people of color, but to also support and uplift the voices in varying marginalized communities that fight to be heard. With what is happening in Missouri, our role is to support even as we are separated by different states and different universities. After all, what is happening at the University of Missouri is not exclusive to that university alone. In the long term, QPOCA seeks to educate and develop leaders in our community to serve UT and beyond.

Kent is a sociology senior from Midland. She is an officer in QPOCA.