We will persist and prevail

By George Ploss

It’s so hard to look around this campus and view a sea of people from all around the world and still feel alone. We know that the brighter their skin, the farther removed they are from our reality. It hurts because even though some of us aren’t educated to the specifics we know, deep in our bones, that the scale is tipped in your favor. These universities are an amalgam of opportunity for the majority of the non-colored, but for us, they challenge our intellect and question the fact of our being here is a favor or a government handout.

There is no affirmative action for us because just the concept seems to insult you. These are opportunities that you take for granted in different venues everyday, and then you cry because we were given an “unfair” advantage. You commit to the argument “I’m not a racist” – of course you’re not, but society is, and you belong to that part of society that reigns supreme, and we don’t. “It doesn’t matter how good you are, as a person, if the institutions of the society provide privilege to you based on their group oppression of others. Individuals belonging to the dominant group can be infinitely good because they are never required to be personally bad,” said noted author Aido Hurtado. So to deny that institutional racism doesn’t exist is the equivalent of walking through life with your eyes closed.

“There continues to be racism in America and our campus is not an exception,” said University President B. Joseph White during our phone interview after the forum titled “Racism, Power and Privilege at UIUC.” “However there continues to be evidence of great progress of our University to be more inclusive.” And he’s right. We are moving forward. Just not that fast, because if we were, we wouldn’t have had to have that forum, and, the Chief would be gone.

“The forum was effective in creating an opportunity for people with strong feelings and views to express them overall, however, a session like that never produces immediate change, but contributes to personal improvement,” said President White. Someone would be hard pressed to argue that the session wasn’t an overall good. It gave the voiceless, especially those of our indigenous brothers and sisters, a voice of protest that is conveniently ignored by those who would bastardized their image in “their” interpretation of honor.

Of course anytime you put all marginalized people of color in a room with a group of prestigious white people governing their education, things will get a little heated.

“Yes I was frustrated, we were invited … and we were then asked why is the panel all white? I thought it was a hostile and inaccurate question with no interest in a response,” said President White in response to a “leading” question. However valid a concern, it was just the wrong venue and was only positive in showing the vivid frustration of marginalized students. More so, it is a question for our governor who appoints the Board of Trustees who then appoint all those who were on the panel at the forum.

That is the real problem in institutional racism. President White acknowledged the fact that racism is still a problem, both personal and institutional. I will argue that institutional racism is detrimental to the extreme, and even though it’s the product of personal racism, policy runs the institution. So we need to change policy. Policy that forces racists, both subvert and overt, to do their job properly with oversight from our elected officials from the our great state of Illinois.

This forum was a public good to those who would disagree. Those who weren’t there were majority pro-Chief and their concerns were not heard. But the funny thing is, their concerns are as opulent as sunshine in our community in which we are seen as perverse. Celina Villanueva and her organization S.T.O.P., and the rest of us who speak out against racism at a public school will continue to do so long after we leave. We will because we are proud to go to this racist school, live in this racist state and vote in this racist country because after everything is all said and done we know that as much blood as has been shed on this hollowed ground of America; Native, Latino/a, African, Irish, Chinese, it is our country by right of contrition from the legacy of those who have done this to us and continue to do so. We died to have a AACP, Latino/a Studies House and a Native American House. You better know that we will not continue to be oppressed without fighting, so don’t get mad because you don’t realize how much of a cushion you have. As Chris Rock said, “Even the poorest white person knows, it’s good to be white.” One Love.