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Opinion

Trip to Milwaukee emphasizes problem of social injustice

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April 4, 2013

We live on a campus here at UW-River Falls that is predominantly white. In fact, 91 percent of the students here are white, according to numbers.

I grew up in a town that was almost all white, and grew up in a school where every student was white. I am now here in River Falls where the situation is about the same and I think a lot of people at school here have grown up with a similar experience as I have. This makes it easy to turn a blind eye to the social injustice that still takes place in our society today.

This semester my eyes started to open up to this problem in my journalism class: Race, Class, and News. The classroom can only show this problem so much, and the impact that has really made my heart heavy on this issue is a trip I took to Milwaukee over spring break with two other UWRF students.

The trip was through the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter here on campus. On the trip, I had the privilege to attend a predominantly African American gospel church that welcomed all of us college students with open hearts.

I had the opportunity work at a youth outreach center that provides two meals a day to anyone who comes in, hosts a clothes drive, has programs for 18-35 adults and helps them to write resumes and learn how to find a job, and just provide a safe place for youth to be able to go to throughout the day.

I also learned about how Milwaukee is one of the most segregated areas in the country, and was able to walk through neighborhoods and live right in the middle of all the brokenness that the city of Milwaukee is facing.

One big fact that stuck out to me was that more African Americans in Milwaukee will go to jail at some point in their life than go to college. Where I grow up, I was never asked if I was going to go to college it was always “where are you going to go to college?” I think that is the case for most of us at UWRF.

It was a shocking realization to see the pain and suffering many people are facing in Milwaukee. A city that is in the same state I grew up in, but have never taken the time to know what is going on there. It was even more uneasy to hear that there is social injustice happening right here on the campus that I have come to love.

After talking to Diana Hendrickson, a student here at UWRF who grew up in Peru and leads an international student Bible study for Intervarsity, it was easy to see many of the international students here do not feel welcomed. She believes that people are uneasy about talking to international students and say they do not know what to talk about with them. Hendrickson pointed out that for her and many other international students, when they come here they literally do not know anyone. If somebody comes up and talks to them they will be overjoyed by the kindness and be glad to talk with them. I cannot think of many things more nerve racking or scary than starting college or traveling to a new country and the international students that come here are combining them both.

Social injustice is an issue that has been going on in our country and world forever. The system we live in is a broken one and it is a problem bigger than any one person can fix.

Imagine if we all decided to make a difference. I urge everyone at the very least to step outside of your comfort zone here at a place where we are all fortunate to further our education. Step outside of the inclusive 91 percent white campus here at UWRF and spread awareness about the social injustice going on in the society around us.

Ryan Tibbitts is a freshman majoring in journalism. He loves all sports but obsesses over his Packers.