Campus forum sheds light on racial issues

Crystal Gray, interim vice president of BSU speaks on micro-aggressions during the forum.  Photo by Linnea Ritchie.
Crystal Gray, interim vice president of BSU speaks on micro-aggressions during the forum.
Photo by Linnea Ritchie.

During a social justice campus forum on Wednesday, Crystal Gray, Black Student Union interim vice president, discussed the micro-aggressions she hears on Augustana’s campus.
Micro-aggressions are acts of intended racism such as saying “Oh, you’re pretty for a black girl,” said Gray.
“A lot of the issue is coming from how we perceive things…so if you haven’t grown up around people of color you only see things that may be on TV,” said Gray.
Gray reiterated the important role that the media plays in shaping peoples views, and encouraged people to be aware of this fact.
Roughly 60 members of the Augustana community attended the forum, which sponsored by the Black Student Union, Student Government Association, Greek Council, Multicultural Club Council, and the Augustana Observer.
The event began with a selection of student and staff speakers, each with their own specific message that were inherently linked together.
After Darien Marion-Burton, President of BSU, gave a brief introduction, Dean Mark Anderson acknowledged that the Augustana community still faces many issues in regards race, but he encouraged all to continue to have conversations about race. Anderson said that these conversations could help the campus move forward towards positive changes.
Quoting Frederick Douglas, he said, “Where there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Admissions counselor Emily Johnson said Augustana has striven to diversify what was once a student body that was 92 percent Caucasian in 2008.
Johnson and Christina Lorge-Grover, Director of Residential life, both emphasized the benefits a diverse environment offers its students and how they continue to work to create such an environment. Johnson said people could learn from those who are different then them.
Junior Leslie Adams brought the issue down to an individual level, stating that its all about individual relationships.
Adams, who identifies as Black, Caucasian and Native American, said he tries not to make such a big deal about his own race and tires instead to acknowledge everyone for their intelligence.
“We are not separated by race, we are a community,” said Adams during the forum.
Paul Croll, associate professor of sociology, said the nation still suffers from racial injustice. He pointed to the stark differences in poverty rates, education funding and incarceration rates of African Americans as opposed to Caucasians.
Gregory Tapis, assistant professor of Business Administration, said he believes that everyone needs to open up and listen to others in order to create a diversity of ideas that is currently lacking in the community.
Other speakers included SGA President Richard Benson and Victoria Gillon, head coordinator for the protests in December.
After the individual speakers were done, the forum shifted to an open discussion.
When asked how we might put all these strong words into action junior Passion Nixon, BSU member, said she believes its starts with oneself.
“You have to constantly put yourself out there…if you want to see difference you have to be the difference,” said Nixon.