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UT Austin: Students Speak Out About Racism and Oppression

     Crowds of cheerful, burnt orange gear wearing, students was the the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about UT Austin. I want you to think about the school’s image for a second. When you think of UT Austin, what is the first thing that crosses your mind?

     It is most probable that you too have a positive and exciting image of how brilliant the school is appear in your mind. Or perhaps, you think of the school motto; “What starts here changes the world.”

     I am not sure how I would like to say the following but it is with big worry or regret that I wonder if everything that my school has ever been perceived as is only part of a great selling tactic.

     It is obvious that the school, like all others, spends much money trying to make money to continue growing, or at least it was to me. I just wished that the multicultural dynamics of the photographs taken to represent the school were genuine. I did not realize that very important social issues like racism and oppression would still play a major role in the current affairs of the school.

     I have been a student at UT Austin for one year. Within that year, I have heard and seen how racism and oppression has affected many minorities at the school. I have also experienced it.

     The first time I ever heard of something like this was when a member of the cooperative I was living in at the time told me about his organization trying to take down some racist propaganda. The Daily Texan,  which is the school’s paper, had printed an advertisement demeaning and condescending toward people from the middle east. He was very upset and set up a meeting with the editors of the newspaper to talk about never printing the advertisement again but was not succesful.

     Ironically, the news industry became very intrigued about The Daily Texan when they printed out a very controversial political cartoon soon after that. They could not be able to focus on this calamity.  Readers could apprehend that the newspaper of what might be the best public school in the country was open to print a message clearly displaying racist undertones and a clear affirmation for the division between “white” and “colored” people. 

      Stephanie Eisner, the cartoonist, later explained that she had just wanted to say that there was too much focus on the murder of one person, Trayvon Martin, because of the color of his skin. I am not sure if that makes a difference.

     I definitely had much to learn from this as a journalism graduate student. Many professors were shocked and had open discussions about the cartoon. Students came together in protest as The Daily Texan addressed the public. We all could not figure out why any of the editors had let this cartoon be printed and how thought this was a clear representation of good ethics and morals.

     As if that was not enough, the school was put on the map again when Cassie Wright, the UT Austin’s College Republicans President,  decided to tweet that President Barack Obama “snorts a lot of crack.” This form of disrespect for our president’s decisions was yet another cause for critical thinking.

     From then on, I tried not to focus on these issues because I am someone that really gets riled up by them and can devote all her efforts to end them. I was also trying to continue to give all my focus to my master’s degree courses. What is interesting is that these issues found me.

     It is a long story that I am not ready to share in entirety with the public but I can tell you that the experience was humbling and made me stronger. A few details include one of my professors sitting me down and asking me what the first language I had spoken was because she thought that it played an incredible role in how bad my writing carried out. She proceeded to let me know that she thought I would never graduate from the program.

     Today, I found out that more protests have been inspired by the racist and oppresive actions of some of the students at UT Austin. There have been attacks on students of color with bleach filled ballons, more racial and homophobic slurs, plus “ghetto” themed Greek-life parties. If anything, I hope that what does start at my school is not the endurance of racism and oppression.

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Comment by Alicia on September 17, 2012 at 12:15pm

As a UT grad, I'm sad to see this racism still exists. I know I definitely saw some of those attitudes while I was on campus, but I also saw many dedicated students fighting for equality and helping create positive change. During my time at UT, I was proud to be a part of student groups that helped promote higher education among Latino high school students to increase our representation, that advocated for the first statue of a Latino leader (Cesar Chavez) to be built on campus and helped elect the first Latino student body President.

Here is another interesting article I just read in the Daily Texan recently....

Comment by Veronica Porras on September 13, 2012 at 5:06pm

To be honest, I am not incredibly sure of how many times it has happened. Does it really matter? I think that these type of things should not happen. I am only talking about racism and oppression on this particular blog because of the meeting coming up. However, I do know that there are more "isms" that need to be talked about too. Yes, one can also be discriminated against because of gender and sexuality.

Also, I would like to note that there are good things at UT Austin. I love my school but it hurts me to know that there are many experiencing racism or oppression in it. It's supposed to be a progressive institution and open for all. Lucia is also right to point out that all of these issues also exist in other places.

Comment by Vanessa Mari on September 12, 2012 at 9:10pm

I think this is very interesting! When you talk about racism/ oppression, do you consider LGBTIQ topics? I am really interested in reading more about this. I understand that there is racism over color of skin, but there is also on gender identity. 

I did not know things like attacks with bleach water balloons that frequently? 

Comment by Lucia Benavides on September 12, 2012 at 10:26am

That "Student Speak Out: Racism and Oppression" event sounds very interesting. As much as I don't want to be heartbroken by the stories they tell, I'd still like to hear about other people's experiences. I was a Sociology major at St. Edward's, so we always talked about racism, prejudice, and oppression - and how present they still are in our society, unfortunately.




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