Michelle Uche

UT students came together Saturday with students from Huston-Tillotson University and members of the general public to discuss the issue of racial bias in present-day society.

The event titled “End Racism and the New Jim Crow: Families of Police Violence Victims Speak Out” was held at Huston-Tillotson University in East Austin. The event was co-organized by several organizations, including the UT chapter of the national organization Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

The discussion focused on national and local instances of police misconduct driven by racial bias. In many of the instances, an African-American man was killed by police at the crime scene or while in custody. The family members and victims shared their stories to explain why there needs to be additional and stronger legislation to prevent such misconduct from happening in the future.

Speakers included Eva Haywood, mother of James Haywood, an African-American man that died in 2011 at the age of 33 in the custody of the Elgin Police Department in Central Texas. Airicka Taylor also spoke at the event from Chicago via Skype. She is the cousin of Emmett Till, an African-American boy killed in 1955 at the age of 14 by Mississippi police, spurring on the then emerging national civil rights movement.

Roughly a dozen event attendees stood up and shared their experience with racially-motivated misconduct.

Several of the event’s co-organizers, including government senior Michelle Uche, also spoke at the event. She broke down in tears as she spoke about the lack of public awareness of such misconduct in Austin and nationwide. Uche called the issue “systematic,” because of its frequency and the lack of oversight regarding it.

“This idea that black life can be extinguished by anyone at any time is systemwide and it needs to stop, but it will not stop until we get together and we fight it,” she said. “There will be no justice for us until we get together and we demand it.” Speaker Eva Haywood said racially motivated police misconduct often occurs because police tend to treat people unfairly once they have been convicted of a crime.

“Because our children break the law, it doesn’t mean they are not worth anything,” she said. “They are worth something.”

Felisa Yzaguirre, event moderator and 2012 UT alumna, encouraged event attendees to join organizations that advocate for civil rights in order to fight racially motivated misconduct.

Outside the event, the UT chapters of Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the International Socialist Organization set up tables to allow event attendees to join their organizations and find out about related events.

Printed on Monday, October 22, 2012 as: Students discuss current racial bias

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

As public outrage grows toward the racist violence that African-Americans and people of color live with on a daily basis, the public is learning that incidents such as the murder of Trayvon Martin are not isolated or random occurrences. Trayvon’s murder is another example of the institutionalized racism that is alive and well in our society and often goes unchallenged—but no longer at the University of Texas.

On March 27 during the silent rally for Trayvon at the state Capitol, an extra current of antagonism ran through the crowd of nearly 500 people. A large contingent of UT students were talking about a racist cartoon that was published by The Daily Texan, the University’s official student newspaper, that same day.

Former UT student Chas Moore addressed the crowd, and soon after they took the streets of Congress, marching to City Hall, reminiscent of past Occupy Austin marches. Moore addressed the crowd at the end of the march and called upon them to link up the struggle of police brutality with LGBT and women’s rights. Michelle Uche, UT student and member of the International Socialist Organization on campus, led the crowd in a mic-check and said, “If there are any UT students who want to organize against this cartoon and other racist issues on campus, come over here!” Nearly 100 students stepped forward, and Uche’s friends quickly went to work handing out clipboards to collect contact information and facilitate the discussion with the large crowd using grassroots organizing skills they honed during months of participating in Occupy Austin.

Uche and fellow students called for a picket of The Daily Texan office the next day, and nearly 100 students and faculty members rallied outside to demand the editorial board publicly apologize for publishing the cartoon, denounce the cartoonist by refusing to publish future comics and open up the editorial section to African-American studies professors and students. The conversation with the editorial board at the rally and comments from the online version of the newspaper revealed that board members as well as a large portion of students are not aware of the oppression that African-Americans, Latinos, Arabs, Asians or any person of color has to live with daily and the kinds of privileges that white people can take advantage of and abuse.

A few hours later, the editorial board published an apology, in which it said the cartoonist “no longer works for The Daily Texan.” Now some individuals on campus are trying to rally around re-instating the cartoonist under the guise of protecting free speech, going so far as to create an online petition that states that students are offended because of a “perceived racism within the cartoon itself.”

The cartoon is racist because it perpetuates the idea that anti-black racism is merely a myth or a bedtime story, when the reality is African-American males live in a color-blind society that overwhelmingly targets people of color and leaves them the victims of excessive force, false accusation and unfair sentencing. Allowing speech or imagery that depicts these kinds of ideologies puts people of color into a different class, a class below the white man, and allows for mistreatment, discrimination and oppression of one group onto another.

For those who say we should be patient for all the facts to come out, that we shouldn’t rush to conclusions: Tell me how many more Trayvons will be slain before we challenge the institutionalized racism that infects our society? How many more African-American men will die as victims of the system that steals their dignity day after day? The change isn’t going to come from above; it’s going to come from the bottom up, like with the students who fought to restore Trayvon’s name at UT, and the collective voices of those who are rising up to ensure we never have another Emmett Louis Till, Byron Elliott Carter or Trayvon Martin fall victim to the system.

Villaseñor is a Mexican-American studies senior.

Potential passage of the DREAM Act raised tension on campus Tuesday when the College Republicans at Texas sponsored a talk by conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.

What started out as a summary of topics discussed in Malkin’s recent book, “Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies,” ended with a testy back-and-forth about the DREAM Act in a crowded room in San Jacinto Dormitory.

Malkin took a clear stance against the DREAM Act — coining the phrase “It ain’t over till the alien wins” — to say that illegal immigration is an issue of national security. The act would allow undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors to earn conditional permanent residency after attending college or serving in the military for two years.

“If you start undermining the rules of eligibility to get into the military, you’re going to lower the quality of people [in uniform],” she said. “If you open your doors up to an untold number of people who are illegal aliens, there is no way to regulate the legitimacy of potentially fraudulent documents.”

Addressing a student’s question about Malkin’s apparent disdain for immigration, the conservative author assured the audience that she is not anti-immigration.

“There is nothing wrong with immigrating legally, but there are people who want to come here to pursue the American dream and people who want to come here to destroy it,” she said.

Despite her disagreements with Malkin, government junior Michelle Uche said she knew wanted to see the author for herself.

“I’ve heard her before, and I knew she spouts off Republican and conservative talk, but this was even more than I expected,” she said.

Malkin’s comments about the DREAM Act grabbed Uche’s attention, like other audience members who spoke up during the Q-and-A session.

“She was talking about the DREAM Act as if she’s certain it was designed by Democrats to gain voters when it was Republicans who came up with it in its early stages,” Uche said.

Government senior John Chapman, spokesman for College Republicans at Texas, said he was not surprised that people would disagree with Malkin’s talk. He said they sought out Malkin because she takes a stance that is rare at UT.

“We know UT is a very liberal environment, so we want to make sure we bring as many perspectives as possible” he said.

Chapman said the College Republicans were glad to have Malkin speak as they prepare to increase their efforts to show Republican support on campus.