“Is racism in America’s DNA?” The first question discussed on Monday evening’s Wake Up TU event set the tone for the evening. Presidents of the TU Young Democrats and College Republicans alternately asked questions concerning race in today’s America to a student panel composed of: Amanda Chastang (representing Association of Black Collegians), Brandon Short (representing the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity), John Turner (Treasurer of the College Republicans) and Kyla Sloan (representing the Young Democrats).
In response to that question, Chastang said that “we can’t ignore our nation’s past.” The Three-Fifths Compromise, the Rodney King beating, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dylann Roof’s racial attack in South Carolina show the progression of racial violence through present times. These events led Chastang to conclude that there “is embedded racism” in American society. All panelists agreed.
Next, the panelists tackled the question: Is the black community in America economically disadvantaged? Sloan claimed that yes, it really is. “The ‘pull yourself up from the bootstraps’ mentality comes from the ability to enjoy privilege in life,” she said. This privilege, according to her, is something that the black community never had. “The poor inherit the poverty of their parents, and the cycle continues,” Sloan stated.
Short responded with “there is inequality in the system, but blacks must understand that while it should be an equal system, it is not. We must acknowledge that inequality and fight it.” Turner added that while income disparity is real in America, “many public schools face issues, including my community. We all [in Oklahoma] deal with bad textbooks and are hurt by low teacher salaries and failing districts. It is not simply a racial matter here: all kids in Oklahoma deserve better, regardless of race.”
Discussing the issue of whether or not affirmative action (the policy of favoring members of a group who suffer from discrimination in admission to universities) is fair, Turner told the audience that he does not endorse the use of “special” programs, further claiming “affirmative action must be phased out for ultimate equality.” He implied that giving special treatment to any group is inherently a link in the circle of inequality that oftentimes these groups cannot escape. Sloan countered his opinion, stating “equality is giving the same opportunities to everybody. African Americans in this nation have not had the same opportunities as whites for so long … I support affirmative action because every person in this country is not inherently equal.”
The panel next responded to inquiries as to whether Black Lives Matter represented reverse racism against non-minority groups. Sloan responded that unlike civil rights movements of the past, “Black Lives Matter has no central leader. Therefore, we cannot tie the negative actions of a few to the goals of the movement as a whole.” Short had a different take, claiming “black anger at police brutality is justified, but it is not a way to get outside viewers on board with the cause. When negative actions are the ones most covered by the media, it is up to Black Lives Matter activists to positively express frustrations” knowing that the cameras will be upon them.