It’s time we have the talk

Kennedy Brookins

The University of Texas at Austin has overlooked the experiences of minority students for too long. Blatant disregard of minorities’ struggles has kept us from living up to many of the core values that we claim to be founded on. If we want to reach our full potential as an institution, we must first have an open, University-wide dialogue about race.

The race conversation on UT’s campus is one-sided. Whether it’s the Latino community demanding justice for racist fraternity parties, the Palestinian community fighting for respect or any of the other marginalized groups on campus promoting their rights, we are all desperately seeking a fair conversation between all demographics and administration.

In his book “Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses,” Lawrence Ross reveals the unfortunate hold racism has on college campuses. He writes, “Overt acts of racism on [college campuses] are often dismissed as a series of disconnected incidents, outside the collective responsibility of the university.”

This is surely true at UT where our administration has not taken nearly enough action in response to racism on campus. Racially charged incidents have been conveniently kept under wraps, and the concerns of those affected have been silenced.    

The University of North Texas hosts an event called “Human Library” every year that gives students the opportunity to better understand stigmatized populations. For this event, students can check out a person that challenges a stereotype and get to know them. Last year, human books included an addict, a gay man and a police officer. This event creates a dialogue on difficult topics in a way that’s non-threatening.

I challenge this University to stop making race a taboo topic. I challenge it to be the type of campus it claims itself to be. I challenge the administration to host events, such as the Human Library, that encourage dialogue between minorities and white communities.

As a university in the middle of a city as progressive as Austin, UT should be made of trailblazers. We are supposed to be the ones setting the example to the rest of the world on what it means to be accepting, innovative and progressive. So, why is it that we don’t have an event as groundbreaking and on as large of a scale as the Human Library on our campus?
        
Mathematics senior Minu Scaria suggests that our administration take responsibility for engaging the entire student body, not just stigmatized minority groups, in dealing with these longstanding issues.

“We need an interactive week where the president and the students can come face-to-face and just observe and discuss these issues,” she said. “We have to bring awareness to the entire community.”
            
It’s time for us to live up to the values we supposedly care so much about. The willful neglect of problems so obviously prevalent on our campus is not getting us closer to solving them. What’s starting here is destroying our world. But it’s not too late to change that.

Brookins is a psychology junior from McKinney. Follow her on Twitter @kenneteaa.