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Student government kicks off Race Relations Week

| Friday, November 2, 2018

Notre Dame’s student government began its annual Race Relations Week on Thursday and is working with various groups across campus to host educational and cultural events through Tuesday.

Junior Mita Ramani, student government’s director of diversity and inclusion, said in past years, Race Relations Week events often conflicted with other programming.

“This year, we decided, ‘Let’s do something different,’” she said. “So, essentially, we reached out to a bunch of organizations on campus and were like, ‘What programming are you already having in November?’ We tried to find a time that included a lot of different groups.”

The week kicked off with a Dia de los Muertos altar dedication, the SUB movie “Crazy Rich Asians” and a Latino Film Series showing of “Coco.” Other events include “Beautiful 2018 — Respect, Protect, Honor the Black Woman,” Asian Allure, Black Catholic History Month Mass and a screening of “Selma.” Additionally, Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) is sponsoring a talk by Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, an advocate for Native American rights.

Iris Outlaw, director of MSPS, commended the efforts of student leaders in planning Race Relations Week.

“It also shows the vested interest or commitment that student government has toward diversity and inclusion, which I think is important when we’re talking about creating an environment that is welcoming and embracing of all members of the community,” she said.

Though many students may not see how race relations impact them, learning to have conversations about race and other sensitive topics is an important part of a college education, Outlaw said.

“Being able to have challenging conversations and a form of civil discourse, this is an opportunity to have those when you have the safety net,” she said. “You’ve got faculty and administrators who are here, wanting to see you succeed and giving you the skill set to do such. But when you’re out in the real world, people will just step on you and keep on moving.”

Ramani echoed these sentiments, saying it is often easy to ignore real-world issues while on campus.

“We do go to Notre Dame. We live on an 80 percent Catholic, predominantly white, low minority, low marginalized group campus,” she said. “Sometimes it’s easy to just get absorbed into the bubble, even as a person of color myself. You forget what’s going on in the real world.”

Overall, Ramani said, student government hopes to combat this lack of awareness and spark conversations through Race Relations Week.

“Have these tough conversations about respecting other people’s cultures, being very aware of the way you speak to people,” she said. “[Talk] to your diverse friends and [ask] them if you’ve ever said something that has offended them, but they haven’t brought it up to you in the past because they feel uncomfortable because they’re your friend. Sometimes we get wrapped up when it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s just my friend,’ but it does matter. So sometimes having these tough conversations is the best way to spark dialogue that is really necessary, especially on this campus.”

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About Natalie Weber

Natalie is a junior majoring in English with minors in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy and Computing & Digital Technologies. She serves as News Editor at The Observer and is a native of Western Colorado.

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