Sun, 2012-09-23 12:53
Students of different ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and social and political views attended the “Students Speak Out: Racism and Oppression” forum Tuesday night to listen to their peers’ experiences, thoughts and plans to take action.
A panel of five students shared their personal experiences with racism, sexism, oppression and homophobic incidents not only on campus but also in the West Campus area.
Anthropology sophomore Taylor Carr, member of the Social Justice Coalition, shared her experience with racism in the form of being hit with a bleach-filled balloon, a practice she called “white-washing,” outside the Jefferson 26 apartment complex in West Campus.
“Racism is and has always been a part of campus culture,” said Carr. “There is no justice for us in these kinds of incidents when they tell us to let it go and not let these situations get to us.”
Carr said she has been called racial slurs, citing as an example an experience at a Jack in the Box adjacent to the UT campus in which two white males made derogatory comments at her and her roommate.
“The idea of white privilege is being able to walk around West Campus without the fear of being harassed,” said Carr. “I don’t, in any way, encourage violence but I do believe any human being, well within their rights, should do whatever is necessary to protect their life, especially at a university that is unable to do so.”
Spanish and social work junior Suzie Piggott said she believes these types of issues are being covered up and should be exposed to the student body.
“The majority, which is white students, don’t really know what’s going on with these issues,” Piggott said. “It’s because you’re oblivious, due to having white privilege.”
History senior Joshua Tang, one of the panelists, said he refused to be victimized by his close call with the bleach-filled balloon incident because those types of actions are out of ignorance.
“I’m not trying to demonize the people who were behind this,” Tang said. “I don’t hate the people who try to drop bleach balloons on me, but I want them to realize that they ought to conform their actions to justice.”
Women and gender studies junior Devon Howard shared his experience with homophobic slurs.
“I’ve received them while eating at Jester City Limits, working out at the Rec Sports Center or walking down Guadalupe,” Howard said. “I have a theory that homophobia stems from the lack of knowledge about the LGBTQ spectrum.”
Howard discussed what questions or comments are frowned upon in the LGBTQ community.
“Never guess someone’s sexual identity or assume someone’s gender identity,” Howard said. “When in doubt, just ask, because most of us are willing to talk.”
Howard also discussed how the university does not list sexual orientation in their non-discriminatory policy.
“Students can be lawfully denied acceptance into the University based on their sexual orientation,” Howard said. “This not only affects students, but faculty members who can be denied employment or can be give a lower salary based on their sexual identity.”
Social work senior Katy Waters, advocacy assistant for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, discussed gender discrimination and the prejudice underlying women.
“We live in a society that tells women not to get raped instead of telling men not to rape,” Waters said.
Waters said students should not engage in jokes involving the matter of rape and attempt to celebrate non-violent masculinity.
International relations junior Simone Roberts, co-director of operations at the Students for Equity and Diversity Center, said the event drew in people who experienced discrimination on campus but others, like her, have not.
“It was good for me to hear and understand what each of them have gone through,” Roberts said. “It was a necessary opportunity for everyone to be in a room of people that are different from them but are having the same sort of experiences.”
Rocio Villalobos, an advisor for UT’s Multicultural Engagement Center, said this event was meant for students to realize how hateful actions can affect students over time.
“A lot of times, students of color or from other marginalized communities who experience these day to day aggressions maybe don’t see it as a big deal,” Villalobos said. “Those types of aggressions build up over time and really affect the way in which we learn to behave in society.”
Villalobos said she hopes the panelists’ experiences encourage others to speak up if they see or hear hateful actions and take their concerns a step further by getting involved.
“It’s not just a matter of speaking up for yourself or for someone else,” Villalobos said. “Being a part of a group that is focused on trying to make a larger change so that those types of actions aren’t condoned makes the real difference.”