Damage control not enough to fix discrimination

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Feb. 27th marks the University of Texas Tower’s 80th anniversary. Paul Cret, the consulting architect for UT created and developed the plans.
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If the presence of students of color threatens you, it is not our responsibility to reassure you. If you are ignorant of the daily toils of being a person of color on this campus, so much that they sound irrational to you, it is not our responsibility to educate you. If the truth about your contribution to a student of color’s marginalization makes you feel attacked, then it is not our responsibility to comfort you. And if you call yourself progressive but don’t know what intersectionality is, it’s probably because you stormed off when a person of color tried explaining it to you.

Thank you for reading this far. Your efforts are truly a mark of progress toward equality in this country — except they’re not, and it’s not our job to sugarcoat that for the sake of your ego.

Students of color on this campus are pressured to fill the roles of educators and service providers for others. We didn’t sign up for this unpaid diversity training internship or for the disrespect we receive from the people we’re encouraged to enlighten. We are students, eager to learn and succeed just like everyone else. However, we are not treated as students, but as research subjects; scrutinized and not recognized for our worth. We are expected to assimilate to and respect all things European, but our own cultures, wisdom, and knowledge are ignored or ridiculed.

We are surrounded by people who insist on their liberal politics, as if those proved cultural competence, yet fill our lives with one microaggression after another. These racist events continue to intensify, from the shifting away when we sit down in class, to the casual and unwarranted pseudo-diagnosis of what’s “wrong” with our particular ethnicity, to tirades and walkouts by UT staff members and students at the suggestion that their remarks are inappropriate, even to ethical lessons and more.

We don’t have the privilege of storming out of our own skin when confronted with the truth about institutional racism, nor do we have the privilege of context being applied to excuse our behavior when we react to the painful realities of being a person of color in this country. We get reprimanded and blacklisted — get it? — as unruly or hostile, while our white counterparts, clinging to privilege for dear life, are humanized for their ignorance and toxic fragility.

This needs to stop. The University has relied too heavily on damage control as if it were enough to change our experience. This is illustrated in the passive way it has handled clear-cut discrimination. We don’t need a town hall. We don’t need lip service. We don’t need another loopholed policy. And we don’t need advice on how to be more respectable. We need action; and not just plans for action, either. We need transparent, sufficient, and timely action. The University must put in the work to ensure that people of color get the basic human respect we deserve, so we don’t have to constantly smile and ask for it nicely all the time. We mainly need discriminatory offenders to be held accountable in a tangible way so that the culture that enables this dynamic can actually change; unless the institution doesn’t really want it to.

Bathea is an economics senior from Frisco. Follow her on Twitter @upper_reality.