As part of UConn’s Day of Metanoia, a “Racism at UConn and Beyond” discussion was held Wednesday in the Gentry building. The host of the event was Dr. Joseph Cooper, an assistant professor in the sports management program at UConn.
Cooper and many of the students present at the discussion were involved in Collective Uplift. Collective Uplift is a program that was founded by student athletes and welcomed every student to take part in their discussions and events. These events focus on educating, empowering and providing opportunities for students across multiple ethnic groups, which is of much value to the university.
Racial tensions have been high lately, from the usual stories to the recent and close-to-home incident at the University of Hartford, where a white undergraduate threatened the health of a Jamaican roommate to get her to move out.
Even closer to home was an event that occurred on campus on this exact day three years ago. A racially-charged incident between a black sorority and a white fraternity through the then-popular app Yik Yak set everyone at UConn on edge.
The open-floor, open-mic sense in the room made students more willing to share their own experiences or opinions. Jade Thomas, seventh-semester political science student at UConn, touched on her personal racial experiences and the importance of having conversations like these. Thomas felt that ignoring problems like the Yik Yak incident only perpetuates the lack of knowledge most have on these issues.
“What UConn wants for its students is amazing but it’s not always what happens,” Thomas said.
The event was a real eye-opener. While each of the students who had the courage to speak and tell their stories all had unique stories, they were somehow all connected. They carried similar burdens, whether it was struggling with identity, stereotyping or deciphering and destroying societal and institutional expectations of them.
This further strengthened the need for us all to be united despite ongoing conflict. The stories of these brave students will impact someone else, whether directly or indirectly. So if we are all involved, we cannot choose to be bystanders. Rather, we must educate ourselves and take the action necessary to ensure that all students feel safe and represented in the university community and in the world.
The main idea that the students expressed that they wanted to come out of this discussion was that education is the best way to affect these changes. Cooper concluded the discussion with the message that, while education is significant to the discussion, we as a community need to “move beyond just knowing and take action.”
Hopefully this is not the last time these discussions will take place. The United States is at a crossroads right now and it is up to its inhabitants to take the necessary steps to make this change. According to the presentation, it all starts with education. Educating students about privilege, “colorism” and their role in changing these realities that people of color face at UConn and beyond.
Kanthalina Andreus is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.