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Racism still present

Letter to the Editor | Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some of you reading this right now might be thinking that we’re not apathetic or ignorant of the socioeconomic issues on campus because this is Notre Dame, and for the most part, we all get along. And on the surface, yes, we do. We live side-by-side, play on the field together and sit in classes next to each other. So racism isn’t a problem anymore? Others might agree that perhaps it does linger, not so much in the form of violence, but in more subtle ways: A joke, a careless remark, a misguided assumption. What I learned today from our conversation is that racism is not only still present here at Notre Dame – it never really left.Did you know that this Saturday Wabruda, the campus organization of African-American males, hosted Notre Dame’s first Black History conference? I was invited to take part by the president, senior William David Williams, who sought outside support from Sustained Dialogue, a group I am part of. Sustained Dialogue is devoted to conversation regarding diversity-related issues both at Notre Dame and beyond. At the conference, I was to help lead a small group discussion. However, there was a surplus of group leaders, and instead I ended up talking for an hour with a fellow SD member, senior Casey Bouskill, as well as with William David and Wabruda’s vice president, senior Roosevelt Kelley. I stood there and heard, for the first time, accounts of racist acts occurring in dorms. I also heard accounts of assumptions based on race made everywhere from the classroom to the dining hall (he’s black and a male, ergo he is a football player – “Great job out there this weekend!” – and an African-American male student who is not a football player is wondering why his efforts on the field were just congratulated). I learned how apathy toward challenging these stereotypes plagues our community. I hear the accounts of these young men who just got used to it and how they are forced into a terrible catch-22: Either ignore incidents of ignorance (because what’s the point?), or take action and potentially perpetuate the stereotype of “the angry black man.”I’m not militant and I’m not accusing anyone of anything I won’t admit to myself. But I am heartbroken. There has to be some middle ground between passive and hostile responses to racist and elitist remarks and actions. Wabruda’s advisor, G. David Moss from Student Affairs, offered some insight into how to best effect change in a positive and meaningful way. He urges all of us to not let fear limit what we do. It is only through challenging ourselves that change occurs. We could start with acknowledging the problem and talking about it. Then move to action, which could be as simple as reaching out to the various communities on campus. One way to do this is to attend the various events hosted by groups celebrating their heritages. You did not need to be black or male to attend the Black History conference, in the same way that one does not need to be Asian to go to Asian Allure, or Latin to participate in Latin Expressions. It’s about challenging assumptions, stereotypes and apathy.When we say, “Oh well, that’s just the way it is,” we’re making excuses instead of improvements. Let us dare not to be resigned. Let us dare to face our fears. Let us dare to try something new.

Jessica PeytonseniorFarley HallFeb. 24