Students feeling powerless to change the Bush administration’s position on affirmative action and the war turned to professors of color for a different perspective a few weeks ago. Faculty responded to the students’ request by forming a new organization – University Faculty of Color for Peace and Racial Justice – and held their first teach-in yesterday.
Professors and a graduate student encouraged students at the teach-in to advocate affirmative action and to organize against the war in Iraq. Speakers addressed two major frustrations held by minority students – the Bush administration’s opposition to the University’s race-conscious admissions, and the nation’s policies regarding the war in Iraq.
African American studies and women’s studies Prof. Nesha Haniff said affirmative action and the U.S. military are related because affirmative action increased the number of minorities in the Army.”On one hand, Bush is against affirmative action but people of color are dying on the front line and we are supposed to trust him,” Haniff said.
Addressing the need for students to organize, women’s studies and American culture Prof. Maria Cotera said the apathy of Latino students on campus arises from the feelings of shame and disempowerment they feel toward the government, which in turn blocks students from organizing. “Students become pessimistic and if they speak out they are told they are betraying their country,” Cotera said. “But remember that the power of the government is invested in the people.”
Rackham student Zereena Grewal did field research in the Middle East until last month, when she was evacuated because of the threat of war.
“My husband is Iraqi and in all my time in the Middle East, I have never met someone who likes or approves of Saddam Hussein,” Grewal said. “When you see Iraqi soldiers fighting against the U.S. on the TV, they aren’t fighting because they want to keep Hussein in power. They are fighting because they don’t want to be bombed.”
But women’s studies and American culture Prof. Andrea Smith said the anti-war movement should not focus only on Iraq. “We are in the long haul, because Bush declared war on terrorism,” Smith said. “This means there will be more fighting and with time the movements will build momentum.”
LSA freshman Lauren Whitehead recited a poem she wrote out of frustration with inability to voice opposition to the war, as well as her support of race-conscious admissions. As a minority student, Whitehead said she attended the teach-in to learn more about the impact of the war in Iraq from the minority perspective. “People look at me and think that I don’t deserve to be here, but I know that I worked hard to get here. So when the pesident says these policies aren’t right, I start to feel inferior to everyone here and it shouldn’t be like that,” Whitehead said. “Then when you express your frustration, you get called un-American.”