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Editorial

University acts swiftly to denounce racial intolerance

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October 29, 2009

Last Sunday, race-related graffiti was discovered scrawled on the stall wall in one of the bathrooms in the Chalmer Davee Library that threatened violence against black and Asian UW-River Falls students to occur on Monday, Nov. 2. On a campus that values diversity and teaches inclusivity, this act of discrimination serves as a reminder that there are still lessons to be learned and ignorance to be battled.

Hateful graffiti is not new to UWRF. Just last September, a professor found racial remarks on a bulletin board in the Ag Science building. Unlike last September, however, when the act was hidden from students and quietly swept under the rug, this institution is now responding admirably. The Student Voice editorial board would like to commend UWRF for its response to the graffiti, and also urges students to become more aware and take an active part in becoming more inclusive.

Less than two days after the graffiti was discovered, Chancellor Van Galen drafted a direct response chastising the act that was sent to all students and faculty. Part of that message was a link to the Inclusiveness Web page (www.uwrf.edu/inclusiveness) and a Pledge to Speak Up, a statement students can print and sign vowing to not tolerate hate-speak.

The same day the e-mail went out, response boards were placed near the IC desk in the University Center where students could express their feelings over the incident. The boards were full mere hours after their arrival.

Several student-created Facebook groups have sprung up as outlets for students to join voices and forces against racist action.

And on Monday, an event entitled “Hate will not be tolerated at UWRF” will take place. A protest of sorts, the event relies on students and faculty wearing red clothing as a symbolic act of our unity in fighting ignorance. All students and faculty should heed this call and wear at least one red item on Monday in support.

Although this University’s response is commendable, incidents such as this invariably spark a look into possible root causes. Obviously racism is still alive today, but it continues to survive because society is permeated with racial jokes and perpetuated stereotypes. Mainstream comics such as Chris Rock and Carlos Mencia use as punch lines negative stereotypes about their respective races, and jokes are exchanged among students that are based on ignorance or bigotry. Humor can no longer be a shield for hate-speak, and UWRF students must realize this so they may actively strive to cut derogatory dialogue out of daily speech.

There are signs on the border of River Falls that say “we are an inclusive campus” and “we are building an inclusive community.” It is not enough that students take an obligatory multi-cultural course; they must work to realize and reduce ignorance in themselves and colleagues, as well as support UWRF events that spread awareness and chastise racism. Students need to react, feel, share and act.