SPECIAL SERIES : CAMPUS RACE RELATIONS
Campus reacts to faked hate crimes
Some say racism still prevelant at SF State
November 20, 2003 1:02 PM
The false reports by women claiming to be the victims of hate crimes have brought racism to the forefront of discussion at SF State and moved some faculty and students to take a deeper look into how we all perpetuate racism.
Two women living in SF State housing said they were targets of hate crimes because of their race, shaking the campus community into a frenzy to find out if racism is alive at SF State. Longtime Faculty and student organizations are exploring the prospect of racism being an issue at a college that boasts “Love is Stronger than Hate.”
Some say racism and its effects are frequently ignored, rarely discussed, considered taboo and frequently make people uncomfortable with their own behavior, beliefs and their ignorance. Others don’t agree that racism is an issue.
“Racism permeates throughout American society, so of course it’s an issue on campus, “Nabeel Silmi of the General Union of Palestinian Students said. “It needs to be dealt with as not something that’s just on this campus, it needs to be looked at as being woven into the fabric of American society.”
“Race relations are strained at best,” said Laura Head, a black studies professor. “I just find that a lot of people on this campus don’t have respect for people who are different than they are.” Head added that she thinks people in this country are generally in denial about the presence of racism.
“I think there is an underlying quality concern about equal treatment,” said Jamie Newton, psychology professor. “There are people on campus who feel that their experience here has been worse than it should be because of their race, that does not necessarily mean that they are saying ‘the campus has policies that affect me.’”
Not everyone [X]press talked to believes racism is still an issue in America.
“I think racism is just a figment of everyone’s imagination. If people wouldn’t dwell on it anymore, it wouldn’t exist,” Raul Audelo, a member of La Raza said. “It hasn’t really presented itself to me, which is great for me. Maybe it’s just ignorance. It doesn’t seem like it’s permeating everyone’s psyche,” he said.
“I think everyone has certain prejudices, but people have more courtesy and tact in not saying it,” Anthony Phan of the Asian Student Union said.
But some believe that by failing to discuss issues of cultural and racial importance out of fear of being offensive or misguided, people are subject to upholding stereotypes and perpetuate discrimination.
“Racism is a toxin in our social fabric that infects each of us slightly differently, but it’s part of the same syndrome,” said Ken Monteiro, dean of human relations.
The former chair of the psychology department described the syndrome, or the “isms” — racism, sexism, ageism, classism — as a game in which everybody constantly fights to get to the top of the power structure, attaining the most in life while appearing to remaining pure and good at all times, using the faults of others to appear even better than the rest.
“Because none of us are pure we always have the excuse to damn each other as the bad one, or the invaluable,” he said.
“We think of race and racism as individuals acting against individuals motivated by race, and that’s the symptom, not the illness. … It shows up in other ways, prejudgments, distrusts, misunderstandings of the meanings of things that we both think we know the meaning of, for example, a watermelon.” Monteiro said.
Many students have spoken with Professor Head, expressing their frustration with departments being unequipped to deal with complaints they might have about teachers treating them in a racist manner. They feel they are not taken seriously, she said.
“The black students I speak to in general feel that the campus is not sensitive to their needs,” she said.
Head said she believes there is very little possibility of ever overcoming racism, but if the university is serious about resolving racial incidents on campus they need to implement some of the ideas that are recommended at the meetings, committees and summits.
Monteiro suggested people open the lines of communication amongst themselves when discussing racism and remain calm and honest about its affects. “We need to train each other on language skills for correcting offensive or stereotypical speech without encouraging aggression,” Monteiro said. “For example, I could say that you really pissed me off because you said something stupid about me. Another way is to say, I don’t know what you meant, but when you said what you said this is what I heard you say about me. I’d just like to let you know how you made me feel.”
If people can’t resolve their issues cooperatively, the university should have a system in which people can bring their grievances to a safe place for discussion, according to Newton.
Avenues need to be open on campus where people with any concerns relating to biased treatment feel they are welcome to go and raise their concerns, and describe their experience to people who have the power to act in an effort to move forward in creating supportive diversity initiatives, Newton said.
The need to explore potential racial tension pans out into the nation as a whole, but here people can take the opportunity to discuss problems of discrimination and learn from those discussions, then apply the lessons in all aspects of life, Newton said.
“I think students are here to learn, to explore their own potential, to examine their own experience, to question whether practices are fulfilling promises.”
Additional reporting by Reinalyn Ramos
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