Students and staff members united around The Rock outside Founders Hall on Wednesday to share testimonials of racism, hope and humanity.
The “Hoodies and Hijabs” rally, held on the 44th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, came in light of the high profile cases where Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi lost their lives because of racial stereotyping.
“As I heard about the two incidents that bring us here today, it’s hard to open one’s mouth without screaming,” Professor of Public Administration Matthew Witt said.
Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old Florida resident walking home from a store when he was fatally shot by community watch coordinator George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman followed him, claiming to Sanford, Fla., police that Martin was exhibiting suspicious behavior.
Shaima Alawadi, originally from Iraq, was found by her 17-year-old daughter brutally beaten in her home in San Diego, with a note that read, “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”
Alawadi and Martin both died because they were stereotyped.
The testimonials shared were personal experiences that dealt with racism.
“It is hard for me to understand why someone would hold prejudice against a person based on their race,” sophomore psychology major Carolina Cisneros said.
Cisneros dealt with racism that was directed toward her best friend, an Arab American discriminated against following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Cisneros, a Latina, said she now has empathy for those treated unfairly.
Junior foreign language major Tahil Sharma shared his own experience growing up.
“Walking down a road and being called an abomination, time and time again, is not a great feeling,” Sharma said. “Why should we stand here and say nothing?”
He mentioned how discrimination, whether through race, sexuality, religion, or even personal interests, follows individuals daily.
There is no right to say someone is worse than you, Sharma said.
Sophomore English major Breana White spoke of instances where she faced racial stereotypes within her own race.
“I’ll have girls come up to me and say, ‘Oh hey girl, wassup!’” White said. “But I don’t talk like that.”
White said that while we’re all different, we are all the same human race. She added that we should be wary of subconscious racism that occurs within our own lives.
Professor of Psychology Nadine Nakamura brought one of the event flyers she found posted. Someone had written on it, “Get over yourself and study for class instead.”
“As an educator, this horrifies me, a lot of people think talking about these issues is a waste of time or self-indulgent,” Nakamura said. “Isn’t reflecting on your experiences an important part of your education?”
Nakamura encouraged the audience to speak up not only for themselves but also for those that have been victims of stereotyping.
One of the final speakers, freshman psychology major Rachael Sullivan, told the audience to not lose hope but rather take steps toward a post-racial society.
“We cannot lose hope for our future; these tragedies are unacceptable,” Sullivan said. “Intolerance will not be tolerated.”
The group then moved to the peace pole where they were able to write down their own personal testimonies and then place into the ground surrounding the pole.
Robert Penalber can be reached at email@example.com.