Forum: UT must respect voices of minority students on campus

Myra Ali

When minority students step onto a predominately white institution, we are entering an environment that was not created with us in mind. Our identities and experiences have always been a side thought, and continue to be secondary to the norm. We are by default the Other, and we exist in spaces that do not intrinsically want our presence. When minority students want anything — greater representation in tenured faculty, a student population that accurately reflects the diversity of the state at large — we have to fight. We have to struggle. The burden of proof is and remains on us, even when it is evident that systems of oppression and injustice are the cornerstones of our society.

When Black students call for all Confederate statues — not just Jefferson Davis — to be removed from campus, there shouldn’t be working groups and committees. When Latino students ask for fraternities to be held accountable for their actions, there shouldn’t be a carefully worded press release that voids responsibility based on the proximity to campus. When Palestinian students ask for the University to divest from corporations that benefit from the ethnic cleansing of their people, there shouldn’t be an organized smear campaign. There should be action. No questions asked. We must stop belittling the experiences of minority students on campus by asking them to explain their oppression and then turning around to patronize them with the tools of the same institution they call into question.

As Black students and allies at Mizzou, Yale and other campuses across the country unite to hold their institutions accountable, it is essential that we at UT look to minority leadership on campus and ask what we can do. Now is the time to listen, learn and take action — because we are complicit.

Silence is complicity. Neutrality, apathetic and politically polite stances do more harm than good. By refusing to engage in the discourse, we legitimize the system and further the status quo. When we refuse to speak out we allow ourselves to be spoken for; it is irresponsible and negligent to stay seated in the face of injustice.

It may seem like a call to action is mobilizing across the nation, but the fact of the matter is that people of color have been calling out for months, and years and decades upon decades. We refuse to be ignored and we demand to be recognized — not in the bits and pieces of our cultures and identities that may be cute or convenient for you to digest, but as our full and whole selves.

Ali is an international relations and global studies senior originally from Islamabad. She is the Diversity and Inclusion Agency director of Student Government. She is also an associate copy desk chief at The Daily Texan.