The Latino/a UCSB Network Association and the Asian Pacific Islander Alliance hosted “Calling In: Cultivating Racial Consciousness & Inclusivity” on Thursday, where panelists discussed racial tensions on university campuses across the country.
Recent racially charged incidents — such as those at University of Missouri, Yale, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Oklahoma and Harvard University – are raising the question of how UCSB staff and faculty can better serve as allies to students of color. Four panelists at the event, Lisa Slavid, Diane Fujino, Aaron Jones and Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval, spoke about why U.S. campuses are experiencing racial tensions, how racial consciousness manifests itself on college campuses, how to speak on race in a classroom and freedom of speech.
Professor of Asian American studies Diane Fujino said while the Civil Rights Movement eliminated formal discrimination, it was “insufficient” at combatting all race issues.
“Racism has changed,” Fujino said. “The work in the ’50s was to legitimate that racism existed and it was wrong, but today, there is more knowledge that racism is wrong, and the work today is really to prove that it still exists.”
Graduate Student Association President Aaron Jones said racism is still present in everyday society.
“It is in all things,” Jones said. “If you’re a fish in water, you can’t see the water, doesn’t mean you’re not in the water. We’re living in it, we’re breathing in it. It’s in our society, so of course, it’s going to be manifested on a college campus.”
Coordinator of organizational and performance management for Housing and Residential Services at UCSB Lisa Slavid said she is not surprised to see racial consciousness manifest on college campuses.
“Really, where else in the country would they manifest?” Slavid asked. “Colleges are part of the institutions of the country, and these conversations need to happen. They won’t be happening in the companies or corporations of Google or Facebook or J.C. Penny, they will be emerging here.”
Jones said college campuses should be safe, educational spaces for discussing racial issues.
“We’re supposed to be able to engage in these kinds of dialogues. If we can’t have those types of dialogues and conversations in a university, then we’re in really bad shape,” Jones said.
Associate professor of Chican@ studies Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval said such conversations should not be limited to certain majors.
“Even in Chicano studies, we feel like we need to talk about Black Lives Matter,” Armbruster-Sandoval said. “We don’t think that this is something that should be in one department, in one discipline. We need to talk about Black Lives Matter in our own department, in our own community.”
Armbruster-Sandoval said people need to discuss their different views and opinions to begin a dialogue.
“A lot of people have a problem with the name ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and that’s okay, but we need to talk about this,” Armbruster-Sandoval said. “How are we going to work this through otherwise? It’s not easy to have a conversation about these things — it’s a very difficult thing to walk through, but I don’t think it was fair for people not to talk about it.”
Slavid said conversations about racial issues may be difficult because of fear.
“There’s a silence, and it’s mostly because people are afraid,” Slavid said. “They’re afraid to say the wrong thing.”
Fujino said these conversations can be difficult to approach in a class setting, but faculty and staff must work to appropriately address the issues.
“For professors, it’s trial and error and if we’re dedicated, we talk to colleagues to figure it out,” Fujino said. “There is increasing attention to issues of what they call ‘diversity,’ that means it’s built instructionally. The faculty need to create a space in classrooms so that people can speak, and I also think what it takes is to evaluate and listen to each other.”
According to Slavid, faculty and staff can be allies at UCSB by trusting and listening to students’ perspectives.
“As a white ally, recognize that people of color’s lived experiences are different than yours,” Slavid said. “Show up, listen to learn, but also know when to speak as an ally, even if it makes you nervous, because our silence on topics of racial injustice is part of the issue.”
Associate Director of LGBT Services in the Resource Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity Klint Jaramillo said he knows students with questions about racial issues want to have conversations.
“Hopefully we can move forward and make spaces like this for faculty and staff so we can not only support each other, but support our students,” Jaramillo said.