Fraternity incident part of bigger problem with intolerance
Published: Sunday, November 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 1, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.
Recently an incident involving a fraternity member and a black female student was reported. The incident, fraught with racist and sexist slurs, is not an isolated incident but rather another sign of our campus culture and the larger culture, and when linked to the other incidents has far greater implications for the experiences of underrepresented students at the University of Florida.
It is not enough for us, as a campus community, to punish those individuals who target and discriminate against others in our community based on our perceived differences. When we operate from a system that treats ignorance and the actions on that ignorance as a product of an individual, we treat the symptom rather than the disease.
Audre Lorde wrote, "It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences." As a community of learners we must ask ourselves if every UF student's experience is free from discrimination or operating in a culture that refuses to recognize, accept and celebrate the differences between us.
If we connect this incident to the other events, we begin to see a system at work, a theme that if you are different you do not belong. As long as that system exists we cannot expect the discriminatory actions of individuals to cease. We are not serving our purpose as an institution of higher education if we merely treat the actions of individuals as the source of the problem without connecting those actions to the larger systems of ignorance and intolerance.
And so begins our call to action. UF should strive to provide the education and space for students to develop into global citizens, into individuals who are culturally competent, socially aware and, at the very least, kind to one another.
We cannot make UF a better place overnight, nor will it be changed through the changed heart and mind of one individual. But we can engage in critical dialogues, we can advocate that UF dedicate resources to support underrepresented students and challenge all students to think critically about the world around them and their privilege.
We can be engaged bystanders that immediately go into action when we see oppressive behaviors happening to our fellow peers. We cannot tolerate ignorant words and actions when they are happening around us. We can be committed UF and Gainesville citizens by involving ourselves in organizations that challenge the status quo and whose mission it is to make our local Gator Nation a better place.
UF's history has been challenging, and we must certainly celebrate progress; however, let us not be complacent in our tolerance. We cannot change history, but we can determine the present and influence the future. Let us learn from our past and rewrite the story from one of exclusion and difference into one that embraces and celebrates our differences. Look for part two of our call to action series to learn more about specific ways to help change campus culture.
Jarrod Cruz is director of the Intercultural Engagement and the University Minority Mentor Program; Olivia Garcia is director of the Institute of Hispanic Latino Cultures; Veleashia Smith is director of the Institute of Black Culture; Lauren "LB" Hannahs is director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs; Alex Cena is director of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs, and Ellen Kostewicz is operations coordinator of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs at the University of Florida.