eric garner

Ithaca College Holds First Diversity Town Hall Meeting

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In light of Michael Brown, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and the ongoing national debate regarding institutionalized racism, students at Ithaca College held the school’s first diversity town hall meeting. Student leaders gathered this afternoon to discuss and brainstorm ideas to work toward a more diverse campus, focusing primarily on diversity issues related to the college’s African, Latino/a, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) community, but also including topics such as gender and sexually.

Instead of just talking about the issue, students were asked to come up with specific solutions to problems in which they feel are directly related to a lack of diversity on campus. Maybe someone of color was given odd looks as soon as they stepped into a room full of white people. Maybe someone received microaggressive comments from a peer and didn’t know how to handle it. Maybe there aren’t enough professors of color in a school. How can we address these issues, and, more importantly, what are we going to do to prevent these things from happening again?

School administrators sat in on the meeting and took note of the various suggestions that students had for diversifying the campus. Students also participated in a series of discussion-based activities, such as filling out an identity worksheet in order to share the most salient parts of their identity.

The town hall meeting today served as the infrastructure to a future of possibilities. The idea here was to start planning a course of action–what can we do as students to help make the campus a more inviting place for students of color? We’ve had endless discussions about the problem, so now it’s time to actually do something about it.

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Learning To Talk About The Problem: An Introduction to Racism And Social Reform

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After the Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, racism became the standard discussion topic for young adults nationwide. Throughout the months of November and December, people used social media to express the immense outrage that was felt toward the jury’s decision. Riots flourished throughout every corner of Ferguson, and even made their way to the streets of New York City. Cases such as Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and Trayvon Martin fueled the people’s drive to bring about justice and social reform. Locally, Ithaca College students organized their own lie-down demonstrations, banding together to join the fight against racial injustices. It seemed as if a political snowball effect had begun to rouse the population.

But after all the hashtags were tweeted and the demonstrations began to disperse, the protesting trend faded into the background. Nowadays, the world only pays attention to a certain topic if it is current, or “in the now”. Looking at the news headlines today, there isn’t much said about racism or the police brutality cases. It’s almost as if they have disappeared into the background.

It’s unrealistic to think that after a few protests and wearing #BlackLivesMatter t-shirts, the world will suddenly change the way it perceives race and ethnicity. The battle against racism has been a constant struggle for many. But with all the social advances we have made over the years, why is it still so hard to keep this particular hashtag trending?

In today’s fast-paced and social media-fueled society, news is constantly being regurgitated by social media outlets, television stations and radio broadcasts. We have the ability to literally hold all the world’s information in the palm of our hands. It’s only natural that our short attention spans only retain the urge to fight against racism for so long. Yet if we want to galvanize any sort of change, it is vital that we keep this discussion going.

We all have the capacity to do this. Talk with neighbors, talk with friends, talk with family members. The key here is to keep the topic alive. There’s no point in starting a movement if it is simply going to be forgotten in the dust. It’s time to become proactive, and not just simply reactive. If not now, then when?

Additional educational sources: 

American Civil Liberties Union

Brennan Center for Justice 

Race Forward 

U.S. Human Rights Fund