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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Racism at UMass-Amherst

UMass-Amherst (MA) --- On Wednesday, December 5th, 2007, over two hundred students and professors met to discuss acts of racial hatred (all related and linked to a steady increase in acts that are occurring throughout the country), how these acts reveal institutionalized racism, and how to begin to organize so that we, the community, can meet and discuss specific incidents and specific concerns without being intimidated by students, professors, and university officials.

You’d think that blogs, local TV stations, and local papers would be showered with insights regarding what was one of the most productive and powerful discussions on racism that any of us from Amherst Life has participated in at UMass. A search through the UMass website and Google, however, will reveal that the three brief pages covering the event show no concern for detail and are largely uninformed.

WFSB Channel 3 was there. The UMass Daily Collegian was there. Why is nobody writing in detail about this? Why is the campus newspaper silenced? The answer: reputations are at stake, Professors, Chairs of Departments, and University officials are being called into question, and a dirty little “scandal” can disturb the imaginary “equilibrium” that never existed at UMass. What could be a learning opportunity for the community, a chance to raise awareness on the steady increase in acts of racial hatred throughout the university and the nation, is being pushed aside and obscured. Not only does this directly reflect on the University’s views regarding acts of racial hatred and the fact that the university itself is complicit by doing NOTHING (no statements, no support, no help in organizing a forum to discuss the issue), it reveals how local media is being manipulated and how the overall message is “get over it” and move on before people’s careers get hurt. Our response at Amherst Life: forget your careers and forget your guise of racial equality. From officials dressed in KKK garb in front of “I Love ALANA” posters (a campus organization for students “of color”), to the closing of the ALANA central offices, to HUGELY reduced funding allotted to “Opportunity Fellowships” for so-called minority students (a MAJORITY of the worlds population), to the present situation, the university’s reputation is lower than low, and now is the time to come together as a collective force to discuss these issues without feeling threatened and intimidated. This is an opportunity to listen and to make some changes on this campus. NOTHING is not an acceptable practice.

The conservative white backlash regarding a series of incidents involving acts of racial hatred is either 1.) obscuring events involving racial hatred and ignorance, 2.) defending specific perpetrators on the grounds of intent vs. non-intent, 3.) pledging allegiance to a first amendment (students are free to offend others, you see, and to call people out is suddenly impermissible even though the victims of racial hatred are also protected by the first amendment), or 4.) directly and indirectly threatening students who are voicing their concerns on these issues. AND THEY ARE GETTING AWAY WITH IT because nobody is covering these incidents as they arise. People are being silenced as professors and officials wipe their hands clean of any responsibility. And the most despicable twist is that -- instead of recognizing that specific actions occurred and were highly offensive, instead of looking at the issues that obscuring information can lead to (students being intimidated and threatened), instead of taking this situation and letting people learn from it – the countless victims of all of this are being re-victimized. The First Ammendment goes both ways: you are free to express and to offend, and you are free to EXPRESS THAT YOU HAVE BEEN OFFENDED BY A SERIES OF ACTS. You are free to express that you are offended and threatened by that series of events.

The issue is no longer the initial acts of racial hatred (and it is hatred because the act was perceived that way), it is the handling of the incident. It is the fact that the victims of this incident (anyone who was impacted by it, and that includes ANYBODY regardless of location, race, gender, class, nationality) are now being intimidated, threatened, and silenced which has prompted us to write this and to DEMAND that people’s voices be heard.

Our utmost respect goes out to the people who have had the courage (and it takes just that) to move forward despite implicit and explicit threats, to the organizers of the forum, people who spoke, people who responded, people who attended and listened and LEARNED.

We at Amherst Life welcome your comments so that dialogue can continue. We ask, in the spirit of the forum, that you not refer to the specifics of the incident, that you not refer to the names of specific people. The threat against people who have come forward to voice their disapproval with the situation is real and we do not want to jeopardize their well-being any further. We thank you for your cooperation.

To read more articles on racism at UMass, click here to return to the Amherst Life Blog Homepage:

4 Comments:

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  • At 11:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I have no doubt they are committed to diversity but I think it's a coconut and Twinkie exclusionary pattern.

     

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