As a member of the University of Michigan community, the results of last week’s presidential election pained me as they did many of you. I needed time to grieve before I could move forward. I am disappointed that our nation elected an individual who ran on a campaign that was fueled, at least in part, by the denigration of minorities. The community’s response throughout this country, including here in Ann Arbor, has merely cemented the fact that there were people who elected our president-elect because of his bigotry, and now believe it’s right to unleash their previously-closeted hatred toward others. As a white, cis-gendered male of Catholic descent, the ramifications of this election will not hit me as harshly as they will others, but they are still deeply upsetting.
Sunday night, University President Mark Schlissel emailed the University community. As expected, his words denounced the acts of overt hatred in Ann Arbor that have made local and national news. I applaud that part of his email. In the same paragraph, however, he also derided pointing out the possibility that certain votes were racially motivated. While I don’t condone shouting “racist” in the street, I think it is irresponsible to include pointing out racism and painting a swastika on a rock or threatening to set a female wearing a hijab in the same paragraph — implying that they’re one in the same. These deplorable, overt, racist acts are merely the breaking point of the covert racism that led to this point. Pointing out racism, when done thoughtfully, is not the same as engaging in outward racism. Its intent is to make people think, not make people fear.
The University of Michigan has come a long way throughout its history. It is producing higher-quality scholarship than ever. But it can’t be denied that the same University that shows up in most books about the civil rights era for being a leader in progressing the social rights of all people may not have the same focus it once did. As a community, let’s return to where we once were. Let’s push for better and more secure rights of those most hurt by the system. Let’s search for solutions, even if those solutions are found in constructively pointing out when something is racist.
Phillip Stadler is a Ph.D. student in health services, organization and policy.