Stick, Stones and Slurs

The ignored but steadfast undercurrent of racism in today’s generation has come to the surface too often, especially in recent weeks, here at UC Irvine. Following the outrage surrounding Lambda Theta Delta’s mistake of proudly broadcasting an Asian student wearing blackface, a freshman student received a shocking note telling her to “Go Back 2 Africa Slave.”

While UCI has sworn to investigate and has launched a series of informational awareness programs in the meantime, these methods are not promising, seeing as the Lambda Theta Delta scandal received little administrative attention or discipline.

In a university setting, it should be common knowledge that the simple introduction of cultural awareness programs, especially voluntary ones, will do little to influence students who are already inclined toward racist thought and behavior.

As for investigating, it will only single out one person, or one group of people, if successful. And, given the lax treatment of the known, named and videotaped blackface perpetrators, knowing the identity of the note-writer is not a guarantee that justice will be served.

In order to show true dedication to the well-being of its students, the administration — faculty and students — of UCI first need to acknowledge that racism is not over, and big and small forms of discrimination and prejudices still occur each and every day.

From casual racist remarks and jokes among friends and anonymous hatred on the infamous UCI Secrets Facebook page to fraternities boasting blackface, it cannot be denied that racism both “casual” and threatening is alive and well.

Time, youth and environment may mask, but they do not eliminate embedded stereotypes and cruelty toward people on the basis of race, and this first must be recognized.

Second, significant instances cannot be covered up or easily forgotten. A statement in the newspaper or an email from the chancellor are good, but unless the university makes it consistently clear that this type of behavior will not be permitted, follows up their words with actions and publicizes their actions, there is little chance that students will take them seriously.

That being said, it is not necessarily the university’s responsibility to monitor every step of student behavior, and that is not the solution by any means.

As adults, but more importantly as human beings, it is every individual student’s responsibility to refrain from offensive and threatening behavior.

One does not necessarily need to attend a racial diversity awareness panel in order to know not to call another student a slave. If this is too much to ask, then perhaps the administration should look into altering the general education requirement to demand that students take a course or two in African American studies, Asian American studies, women’s studies or queer studies to at least be exposed to these manners of thought in the off-chance that they have lived a completely ignorant life.

Using a racial slur or other insult is bad enough in itself, but the added factor of anonymity is not only cowardly but more convenient.

Nowadays, the popularity of various websites allow almost everyone, not just students, to say anything at all to another person from within the safe confines of an Internet browser (I’m looking at you, UCI Secrets.)

As college students, we should have the critical thinking skills to look back to the lessons of elementary school. We should realize that sticks and stones often leave a brief impression, but words are the source of oppression, discrimination and hatred more often than not.

Karam Johal is a third-year women studies major. She can be reached at johalk@uci.edu.