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ND4Mizzou: Justice for all

| Thursday, November 19, 2015

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, a demonstration called ND4Mizzou, consisting of Notre Dame students, faculty and staff, demonstrated solidarity with students of color at the University of Missouri. Coincidentally, Wednesday was also Veteran’s Day. Just like every Memorial Day, on Veteran’s Day, we remember and thank those with the valor to defend our freedoms and liberties. We acknowledge those who have risked their lives for our own, some actually paying the ultimate price. This year, like every other, we approached veterans and said things like, “Thanks to your service, my parents can rest assured that I’m not in danger when away from home.”

It’s a shame that for some people this isn’t true. The mere fact that such a demonstration like the one organized to support students at Mizzou was necessary shows that not every American can say these comforting and uplifting words. Our veterans and deceased servicemen fought and died for “liberty and justice for all,” but to this very day, we see that in some cases that right is denied to specific groups in America.

At our demonstration on Wednesday, we shared individual stories with our Notre Dame family and promoted a healthy dialogue on the issue. We had the opportunity to send a message that, although we’re hundreds of miles from Columbia, Missouri, we are not blind to events like those happening there. We can empathize, and we should. Although reports of violent acts or threats have not been made at Notre Dame, our students do experience subtle acts of racial prejudice or stereotyping more often than many of us would like to think.

Individual instances of prejudice and stereotyping may seem to be insignificant and even innocent, but the accumulation and compounding of frequently-made assumptions and questions based solely on race can be alienating to racial minorities on campus. It is unsettling and tiring to be Latino and have people assume you speak Spanish, you’re undocumented or you’re automatically from Mexico. It is frustrating and defeating to be a black Notre Dame student and consistently be asked if you’re on the basketball team.

Equally unsettling is the presence of hateful messages of a very similar nature to those at Mizzou, right here at Notre Dame, on our own YikYak feed. Recently, messages such as, “‘Oppressed people’ lmao, ” and “I’m disgusted by these protests at ND. We’re better than this,” were posted. These show a blatant disregard for the unequal and alienating experiences of minorities at Notre Dame.

It is our duty as members of the Notre Dame family to fight injustices of any kind in any place and be aware of the impact that our actions and words have on those all around us. I’m in no way trying to tell anyone what to say, think or feel. I am, however, calling everyone to join a conversation about the impact of our words and actions in making racial minorities feel welcome or alienated. Ask a member of a racial minority if you can join them for lunch. Get to know them and their background. Approach people with different experiences than your own. Take some time to talk to an international student about how their Notre Dame experience compares to their life back home. Ask your section mate. Ask me. This is the first step towards ending racial stereotypes and prejudice. It’s long past time that we ask more of ourselves, that we demand liberty and justice for all.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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