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What It’s Like to Go to School with Racists

To those who believe racism isn’t present on our campus: get real and view the picture above.

Young Conservatives, an organization on campus, decided it would be a good idea to protest against affirmative action by holding a bake sale. The price you’d pay to buy a cookie would be determined by your race and gender. Why would Young Conservatives do this? Good question. Young Conservatives wanted to prove a point and stated they believe affirmative action is a “disaster” and “reverse racism”.

Now, let’s get into what affirmative action really is, because so many people seem to have misconstrued beliefs about it. Affirmative action takes into account the fact that white people oppressed and enslaved people of color for centuries. Affirmative Action also takes into account that women were once not allowed to attend higher institutions of learning or work like white men could. It may shock some people, but hundreds of years of oppression can have profound effects on communities! Affirmative action is a means to even the playing field and create diversity in schools and the work place. Both spaces have historically been predominantly white and male, so what affirmative action does is allow women and people of color the chance to attend institutions of higher learning. What affirmative action does not do is allow unqualified students to get into universities.

President Lyndon Johnson said it best: “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair." Thank you, Mr. President, for stating the obvious.

Does this debate sound familiar? For many UT students, it brings back warm and fuzzy memories of the recent Supreme Court case, Fisher vs. UT. As a refresher, that was the case where a white woman, Abby Fisher, whined that she didn’t get into UT because she’s white. I know, I know. Not only is this ridiculous, it’s an outrageous claim to make when she didn’t even have the scores and qualifications to get into UT. The irony in all of this is that white women are the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action. The Supreme Court ruled in UT’s favor and upheld affirmative action.

Clearly, affirmative action makes a lot of people mad because they’d like to belittle the effects of hundreds of years of oppression. It’s problematic that people would argue against affirmative action because it invalidates the many accomplishments of women and people of color. Young Conservatives seem to believe that I, a black woman, had to put in 25 cents worth of work, while white men put in a dollar’s worth of work, to be able to attend this institution. Not only is this bullshit, it completely dismisses the fact that I worked my ass off to attend one of the best universities in the world. I’m not worth a quarter to my white, male counterpart, but that’s what Young Conservatives are claiming. I’m not simply granted access to this institution simply because I am a black woman. What I’m definitely not is stupid; I can detect racism when I encounter it.

Now, let me expand on the notion of “reverse racism”. IT DOES NOT EXIST. I repeat: IT DOES NOT EXIST. Reverse racism is a retort used by people when minorities point out racism and discrimination. It’s a tactic used to discredit the experiences of people of color and denies white privilege exists. What claims of reverse racism also do, is confuse racism with prejudice. Anyone can be prejudiced, but not everyone can be racist because of its definition: it is a system of oppression. To put it in simple terms, racism is an action, while prejudice is a feeling. Non-whites don’t stand to gain anything from systematic racism; therefore non-whites cannot be racist while being oppressed.

No one can deny that institutional racism is rampant in this country. Minorities are profiled and shot in the streets by the police, racial bias exists in our school systems, and injustices occur in our courtrooms. Even individual racism has crawled out of the woodworks, with the help of Donald Trump’s racist remarks. So when I see that my own peers look at me differently because of my race, it pains me to my core. When I heard of this bake sale, it was another testament to the fact that racism permeates our history and social fabric. I hate that people have to witness the divisive nature of racism in a space that is supposedly progressive and not racist. It pains me to see my fellow peers of color feel as though they don’t belong. But the bake sale awakened me to reality: UT is not my safe haven. I attend class with people who may believe that the only reason I sit in the seat next to them is due to my race.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but thankfully we don’t have to combat racism alone. Many UT students were outraged by the Young Conservatives’ anti-affirmative action message. It has sparked a campus-wide debate and I am so proud to see my fellow peers speak out against the hate speech promoted by the bake sale. Keep on fighting, they can’t discredit or silence us all.

 

Peace & Love,

Azza

 

I'm a junior at UT Austin with a passion for psychology and mental health, music, and love.
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