Socialists examine local racial issues

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Austin Center for Peace and Justice president Rudolph Williams speaks to students about institutionalized racism in Parlin Hall Wednesday evening. Williams said racism in institutions such as media and education, both locally and nationally, creates a larger racist mindset that is difficult to break.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

A Wednesday evening open forum brought students together to discuss how racism permeates modern institutions on local and national levels.

UT’s branch of the International Socialist Organization hosted a public talk titled “Systemic Racism: the Role of Institutions and Race” that included three guest speakers and an open discussion on the topic of modern racism in current institutions such as media, government and education. Speakers included government senior and International Socialist Organization member Michelle Uche, finance junior Chas Moore and Rudolph Williams, Austin Center for Peace and Justice president.

Nearly 40 students attended to listen and participate in the discussion at Parlin Hall.

International Socialist Organization member Jonathon Orta said the talk was held as response to several local issues surrounding race, including the high rates of violence by the Austin Police Department against unarmed black and Hispanic suspects.

“As a socialist, there are problems everywhere,” Orta said. “Especially after the Trayvon Martin [cartoon] in The Daily Texan, there’s a lot of buzz but there’s not a whole lot actually going on. People are excited and wanting to run and wanting to do stuff but they don’t know how.”

Williams said racism in institutions such as media and education, both locally and nationally, creates a larger racist mindset that is difficult to break.

“Institutionalized racism, much like racial profiling, is a perception, an attitude and a lingering picture of what people think other people are,” Williams said. “Just because we live in this particular environment does not mean we can’t change it.”

Moore said pop culture’s portrayal of black American males is one major factor that affects the everyday lives of members of the black community.

“If you didn’t know me and you watch TV, you probably would think three things of me,” Moore said, “Either I can play a physical sport really well, or I can dance and entertain and make you laugh or that I’m really violent. Why am I portrayed in only one way? Why can’t I be known for writing books and giving prophetic speeches?”

The lack of coverage in the media surrounding issues such as crimes against black Americans contributes further to a negative stereotype, Moore said.

“Trayvon Martin was a rare incident because black people get killed every day by non-blacks, but it doesn’t get circulated in the media that way,” Moore said.

Uche said incarceration rates within the United States point to severely racist undertones in the criminal justice system on a national level. This disproportionate amount of incarceration indicates an inherently racist system that keeps black Americans in a second-class status, she said.

Public discussions, such as the one held last night, allow for free debate and are vital for creating action within a community, Orta said.

“People are interested,” Orta said. “People are upset, and people are realizing that these things aren’t isolated. These things are systematic. This is a good gauge to see where people are at, and you start the dialogue on how to connect these issues.”

Printed on Thursday, April 26, 2012 as: Institutional racism, negative stereotyping topics in open forum