The #BBUM campaign on Nov. 19 received national attention and sparked conversations on race at the University. I know I’ve been talking about it more than usual, and some conversations I’ve had with other friends — people I otherwise consider to be enlightened and tolerant individuals — have left me both angry and aware of how far race relations at this school still have to come.

I’ve found my hometown and high school to be more racially diverse than my experience in Ann Arbor thus far. Since kindergarten, I’ve been intimately familiar with the customs, foods and clothing of other cultures — the older couples with whom my parents hang out always commented on how diverse my homecoming group pictures were.

College has been a strange experience for me because the University appears to be more active in its discussion and encouragement of cultural and racial diversity than demonstrative of it in terms of actual demographics. For the first time in my life, I’ve been in predominantly white academic and social environments, which has shown me how out of touch some people are with other races, due not to prejudice but rather to a simple lack of exposure and education.

The infamous Theta Xi party notwithstanding, I believe that the vast majority of students on this campus are not overtly racist. One of the biggest issues I’ve observed among my peers is the assumption that the status quo is good enough. Because they have been raised to accept others who are different from themselves, they don’t “see race;” they don’t understand why initiatives like #BBUM are important when they address problems that “also happen to white people.” Basically, they don’t understand that these feelings are wrong because they come from a position of privilege. They don’t intend to be hurtful or deserve to be dismissed as racists, but they do need to be educated.

It makes me vaguely uncomfortable to write about race issues as a white girl hailing from suburban Michigan because I cannot call myself a victim of the discrimination I hope to prevent. I understand privilege and think that this is a good place to help bring other would-be enlightened people up to speed.

For one thing, it’s insensitive for a person to say that he or she doesn’t see race because this ignores that he or she is allowed to not do so. For many, race is something seen, heard and thought about almost every moment of every day, and discrimination based upon it is always a possibility. When a person says that they “do not see race,” they aren’t saying that they are tolerant; rather, they are saying that because they personally choose not to discriminate against others, their identity doesn’t matter and shouldn’t affect them. It’s vitally important to not ignore the experience of others, and part of this is acknowledging and being sensitive to the fact that race is always a factor in some people’s lives.

Another phenomenon I’ve observed is the dismissal of race-specific experiences in the name of a warped notion of “equality.” An African American student Tweeted, “#BBUM is my mom calling me worried about my safety because I wrote an opinion piece about my identity.” One of my friends asked me why this was relevant to a race discussion when they also get concerned calls from parents telling them not to walk alone at night. My response is that issues like this Tweet are relevant because of the history of racial profiling behind them like the Trayvon Martin case.

An ironclad equality-is-equality mindset does not work when everyone in the United States is not and historically has not been equal. It’s great that people on campus are racially sensitive, but being so is part of a dynamic and life-long learning curve. Putting on the “Not A Racist” badge and then ignoring the conversation is not a solution.

Kellie Halushka is an LSA freshman

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