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Opinion

Students encouraged to support racial diversity

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December 5, 2013

When I began classes at UW-River Falls last year, I noticed many international students on campus. I also noticed most of them spent time in groups primarily with students of the same race.

At first, I believed it to be normal; forming friendships with people of similar interests and backgrounds is a usual behavior. Upon second glance, I realized that the majority of racially ignorant white students on campus prevented international students from establishing diverse friendships.

On a daily basis, many white students raise their eyebrows when they hear international students speaking in native languages. Many crinkle their noses in disgust when they smell international students cooking meals in the residence halls. Many mutter derogatory insults under their breaths and a few even directly address international students with derogatory terms. Recently at UWRF, students noticed a confederate flag – an insulting symbol of racism and historical imprisonment – hanging in a residence hall window.

Although I am a part of the 88.2 percent white majority of Wisconsin, I am not numb to racist insults. I do not need to be a minority to feel the damage of derogatory remarks.

Many students seem to want to avoid the issue of racism. For them, avoidance may mean acting as a bystander, walking away from racist situations, or simply pretending not to hear racist comments or see racist actions. But avoidance is not the answer. Just because students pretend that racism does not exist, it does not mean racial divisions will diminish or disappear.

Instead of avoiding issues of racism, students need to stand up for racial equality as well as increase racial awareness. This academic year is UWRF’s year of Germany, which provides students with the opportunity to learn more about German culture. Other on-campus events include culture fairs and guest speakers. In addition, UWRF Residence Life is offering an International Themed Living Option for the 2014-2015 academic year.

It is time to start seeing international or racially different students as equals rather than “black” or “Asian” or “white.”

Hannah Timm is a sophomore majoring in professional writing and minoring in creative writing. When she graduates from UWRF, she intends to work as an editor.