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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Racism has not left the building

    Ignorance is bliss, we’ve all heard.

    Perhaps this famous quote has enabled so many people to adhere to the false belief that racism is coming to an end.

    Unfortunately, those who believe this have spoken far too soon in regard to racism. It’s a bigger problem than people acknowledge, and as a society, we can do a lot more to continue preventing racism. We first need to recognize that if a student cannot be tolerant in a university environment, where they are exposing themselves to all sorts of information, their intolerance will probably follow them into the real world. Instead of watching them pollute the world with overlooked racism, we should take it upon ourselves to call racists on their behavior.

    Racism is pervasive but hidden at universities and in the country, even here at the UA. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the FBI’s hate crime statistics for 2006 showed a rise of 7.8 percent from 7,163 to 7,722 criminal incidents which targeted victims or property as a result of bias against a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability. These hate crimes are just those that have been documented, and racial assaults and insults happen every day.

    Psychology senior Tahlia Bragg is one of many UA students to have experienced racism on or near campus. “”This summer, I was walking with some students on (North) Fourth Avenue and a car full of white students blaring hip-hop music drove up near the sidewalk just to call us niggers and then sped off.””

    In regard to the supposed end of bigotry, Tahlia said, “”I don’t think that people are becoming more tolerant, just passive. They ignore the issue because Jim Crow laws no longer exist, but that doesn’t mean racism has evaporated.””

    We haven’t enforced laws requiring separate public schools, public transportation and restaurants for blacks and whites since 1965, but while racism may no longer be institutionalized, it lives on.

    Just three weeks ago, English teaching assistant and graduate student Aja Martinez wrote to the Wildcat about her encounter with racism at the UA Student Recreation Center when another woman cut in front of her in line for an elliptical machine. When Martinez told the woman that it was her turn, she was called a “”fat black bitch,”” publicly humiliated and racially assaulted on her own college campus. Such blatant hatred and discrimination toward Martinez is horrible and the most obvious form of racism, but there are different types of racism that upset minorities just as much.

    “”The everyday acts of racism I deal with are never really confronted because minimization of racism involves regarding discrimination exclusively as all-out racist behavior, which makes anything outside of behavior like the girl’s at the Rec Center considered ‘non-racist,’ “” Martinez said.

    It has been more than a year since a UA student held a “”black-themed”” party in which partygoers dressed up in fur coats, do-rags and painted their faces black. It has been almost nine years since former Africana studies professor Tolagbe Ogunleye filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents, claiming her employment was not renewed based on racial and gender discrimination. These events have come to pass and were not quite as startling as the encounters of Bragg and Martinez, but are examples of discreet racism that others can easily hide behind and act as if they never meant to hurt anyone.

    Plenty of people on campus tell racial jokes to their classmates, who usually say nothing or occasionally laugh. Whether they agree with what they hear or not, staying quiet and passive gives bigots the satisfaction of feeling comfortable broadcasting their racist beliefs to anyone because no one has ever called them on their inappropriate behavior. As awkward and unpleasant as confrontations can be, they are necessary in eliminating racist behavior in our society since we already have a long way to go.

    As sad as I am to say this, I do not believe racism will ever completely die. There will always be one group of people who can’t seem to grow with the rest of the world or expose themselves to different types of people. There are fewer racists and more tolerance these days, but there is no need to praise this while hate crimes and undocumented racial assaults are still occurring. Instead of acting like everyone is going to change, we should speak out against the acts of racism we actually encounter, whether they are directed at us or not. We were trained to stand up for ourselves at a young age, and now is the time to stand up for others who are being discriminated against.

    Laura Donovan is a creative writing sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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