Namira Islam, a University of Michigan alum and co-founder and executive director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, a group devoted to ending racist incidents against minorities, advised approximately 30 students to be allies to one another and emphasized education Thursday night during a talk entitled “Racial Roots.”

The event was sponsored by the University’s Muslim Student Association to educate students on the history of systemic racism in the United States. In her talk, Islam encouraged attendees to take action in their own communities.

“The importance of education and unlearning some of what we have been taught and re-learning and then using that education to act is just crucial,” she said.   

In addition to discussing racism, Islam said she hoped the talk would provide a safe space for students to ask questions and share their feelings. She referred to white supremacy as a system designed to prioritize and benefit one group over another, and said racism was engraved in the roots of the country.

“Racism is not just about interpersonal discussions, it is about policies,” Islam said. “Racism is something that morphs and evolves over time.”

Islam listed several ways for students to combat recent incidents on campus, such as anti-Black, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ posters found on campus, including listening to and showing compassion for minority students. MSA President Farhan Ali, an LSA junior, said this was the main reason they invited Islam to speak.

“We want to try to build relationships with other minority groups on campus,” Farhan said. “We want to try to educate members in MSA about racism. They share the same struggles we do.”

LSA sophomore Hiba Asad, an MSA member who attended the event, said she felt empowered by Islam’s talk.

“I feel like a lot of times we’re always told to stand up for different subcommunities within the overarching Muslim community, and even non-Muslims, groups that are marginalized in America,” Asad said. “I feel like it’s always nice to have tangible ways to go about that.”

With education, Islam noted, comes a compulsion to liberate and de-stigmatize other minority groups.

Islam’s talk was coincidentally scheduled just days after President-elect Donald Trump won the general election. Several students in attendance mentioned how they felt a renewed sense of fear on campus following the results. During his campaign, Trump made several negative comments regarding Muslim Americans that have sparked concern for members of the campus community.

“It’s a hard time to be a minority and a person who is actively standing up for them,” Asad said.

Islam concluded her speech by telling the crowd to “have heart” in the face of uncertain times ahead.

“Just because society might marginalize these individuals doesn’t mean that we need to,” she said.  

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