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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Forum promotes race awareness

    More than 100 people attended a forum yesterday concerning the recent “”black-themed party”” held by UA students on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    The forum, hosted by Melissa Vito, vice provost of student affairs, allowed people to react to the party and explored ideas to make the campus more inclusive.

    Some students suggested the UA decrease racism by creating a “”multicultural”” course, which could be part of the “”general education”” courses.

    “”I don’t see what’s wrong with incorporating multicultural classes into the general education curriculum,”” said Bryce Dawson, a sophomore majoring in English. “”I would think that a university this big would at least have some kind of mandatory class that would boost awareness of other cultures.””

    The “”black themed party”” was attended by 15 students who dressed as black people. Some painted their faces black, and costumes included gangsters, lawyers and characters from the television show “”Family Matters.””

    Kyle Kuechel, an agricultural education sophomore, told the Wildcat last week the party was not intended to be offensive, although some students believe it was.

    “”When I first heard about this, it sounded like something that happened in the ’50s,”” said Justin Mashouf, a media arts senior. “”It’s upsetting to think that the U of A can’t reprimand their students for their actions.””

    But Mashouf said the party was not the first time an event like this has occurred on campus. In December, the Judaic studies group invited a speaker who is known for his controversial views on the Muslim community, he said.

    “”I come and ask you, what should we do about these types of events?”” Mashouf said. “”What sort of action should the university take to control things that their students commit that are controversial and racist?””

    Education is the best way to fight ignorance, said Aja Martinez, a graduate student and an English 101 instructor.

    In her class, Martinez said students learn about race and stereotypes.

    “”I have taken it upon myself for every class I taught to teach racism and sexism and each semester people say that these problems don’t exist anymore,”” Martinez said. “”I’ve had nearly 200 students now and there are students who don’t think (racism) is a problem.””

    While the party itself was deemed inappropriate by administrators, including President Robert Shelton, some students found the timing of the event to be more offensive than the actual party.

    “”What baffles me most is that they are saying they threw this in honor of MLK,”” said Candiece King, an education senior. “”I don’t see the honor in dressing up like a pimp or a ho.””

    One of the problems with the party is that people didn’t realize how it could be offensive to paint their face black, King added.

    “”It has nothing to do with MLK Day,”” she said. “”To me, it had to do with the fact that someone had the audacity not to understand historically why this would be diminishing to a whole entire race.””

    By the end of the nearly two-hour forum, Vito and other administrators who were in attendance agreed that changes need to be made on this campus to make it more accepting and decrease the notion that Arizona is a racist state.

    “”I want to pull interested community members together to move forward on making changes,”” Vito said. “”Some changes are more challenging than others but we need to start addressing some of these issues.””

    Vito said that she is planning on meeting with Shelton Tuesday to discuss the forum.

    “”We don’t understand one another culturally, and don’t understand that it’s wrong and offensive to paint yourselves a color,”” said Chandra Jennings-Jackson, a health education senior. “”If you are invited to a racial party, say no. Be the change, because it starts here, with one another.””

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