Future race dialogue needs to be fruitful

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

As anticipated, Thursday’s forum entitled “Racism, Power and Privilege at UIUC” yielded little productive dialogue on race issues. Many opinions were voiced, but it turned out to be mainly an extended anti-Chief protest. Little time was placed on ways to cure what truly ails the campus, namely issues of racial insensitivity.

Problems laid in the content of the forum, especially the open mic section. While many participants focused on the Chief, there was little real talk of the steps needed to properly address the larger problem of racism on campus. This is particularly alarming because the Chief is only one example of the racial tensions on campus. Chief Illiniwek did not organize the “Tacos and Tequilas” party, and the Chief alone did not make a student post the phrase “I say we throw a tomohawk (sic) in her face” on a Facebook group. Resolution on the Chief issue will not make the racial conflict on campus go away.

Moreover, the decision to keep or discard the symbol is one that can only be made by the Board of Trustees. Why, then, with no members of the Board of Trustees present on the panel, was such an emphasis placed on the Chief at the forum?

With hundreds of intelligent students gathered in the name of social progress and a panel of administrators willing to listen, the forum was a missed opportunity for the substantive change that the event’s organizers hoped for.

The means to a better racial dialogue were present, but they were not seized. Rather, a list of demands was presented. While many of the demands were for progressive changes, taking such a combative stance does not help establish a welcoming dialogue. And by declaring a deadline for the administration to act and threatening vague consequences if the demands are not met, the organizers are fighting hostility with hostility.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Despite this particular forum’s flaws, it did show that more discussions are needed – ones in which all sides represented and moderated by an third party with no allegiance to either viewpoint.

The University has the responsibility to take a direct lead in fostering this type of environment. Even with the best of intentions, an organization with its own biases and agendas cannot provide for a truly fair structure.

The best plan for real change would be to organize smaller discussions with student leaders and administrators on a regular basis. Only a clear agenda and structure with calm and collected minds gives this campus the best chance for progress.