Race Issues Deserve To Be Heard

Josh Fryday and Tel Cary-Sadler are ASUC senators and partymembers of Student Action and CalSERVE respectively. Respond at [email protected]

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Some members of the ASUC have recently questioned whether issues of race and diversity are worth the ASUC Senate's time and consideration. Any notion that this body should shy away from dealing with the issues of diversity is misguided.

The question of whether it is efficient or necessary for the senate to grapple with these problems is answered by the definition of what we as senators are. Senators are elected to represent and discuss issues facing students at UC Berkeley. And as long as this student body is faced with issues of racism and diversity, it is the obligation of the senate to address these issues.

However, we must deal with these issues in a proactive, not reactive, manner. It is too often the case that when the words "diversity" or "race" are used, it is a reaction to something negative that has happened. It is our goal that discussions and programs dealing with diversity on this campus be focused on celebrating the fact that, despite our different classes and cultures, we are still one community. It is the senate's job to work to create an environment where discussing racism is not an exercise in pointing fingers, but rather a collective step in progressing toward a more safe and equal campus for all.

One does not have to look beyond the confrontation between Arab and Jewish students to see how cultural differences have, and do, tear us apart. We do not have to look beyond Sproul Plaza to see the segregation of different student groups on this campus.

If we fail to address the frayed student relations that are being shaped by cultural differences, by pretending they don't exist or deeming them unfixable, then it is not one group that "loses out," we all do. It is not by highlighting and focusing on these differences, but rather by understanding and educating each other about them, that progress is made.

UC Berkeley students took a lead in the fight against racism during the civil rights movement. UC Berkeley students took a lead in the fight against apartheid in the 1980s. And UC Berkeley students must continue to take the lead in race issues. We have seen that cultural differences have divided this country, this state and this campus, but this campus has proven, time and time again, that it is possible to come together to achieve amazing feats of peace.

The challenge is clear: we must move beyond the divisive rhetoric that many times prohibits progress, and bridge the diversity of our backgrounds, experiences and cultures to create a stronger and more cohesive student community. As senators, we will do this by working to provide services to the campus community, providing forums for discussion and even discussing bills that deal with issues of race and culture.


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