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Crowd grows fiesty at UF race seminar

By Ken Lewis
Alligator Writer

The question-and-answer session grew heated, to the extent that a black student stood up and claimed blacks wanted O.J. Simpson to go free whether or not he was guilty of murdering his ex-wife - because he was black.

The student was an audience member in a standing room only event Thursday night, "Taking action toward healing racism at UF," organized by the Baha'i Unity Club as a part of People Awareness Week.

"We've got a problem with racism on campus," said sociology professor Joe Feagin, one of four speakers who discussed racism and its eradication.

The panel included graduate student Keith Smith, College of Law Assistant Dean Rahim Reed and Charles Bullock, director for Gainesville Job Corps.

Feagin said white males in America make up 39 percent of the population but control 95 percent of the powerful positions.

When asked why unnamed, power-wielding whites do not cure their own racism, Feagin responded with blatant honesty: "It's not in our interest to change."

"This is a white-male country," Feagin said.

At one point during the session, English senior Martha Ryce had to be held down in her seat by a friend.

Feagin, Smith, Reed and Bullock each said that racism is indeed rampant at UF and throughout the country.

"You can't grow up in America and not be tainted with institutionalized racism," Reed said.

There will be no "quick fix," but students must "self-educate" to end the "scourge" of racism on campus, Reed said.

Smith started his speech with a slide show of art created by blacks dealing with racism.

He shared a shot of a personal work in progress - a pair of gruesomely angry and frightened black heads with arms sprouting from newspaper clippings that reported black-on-black crimes.

The clippings laid on a bed of gray bricks. Smith had the couple pointing guns at each other.

To display the ethnic diversity at UF, Bullock asked audience members to yell out their ancestry.

Students cried, "Trinidad, Scotland, Antigua, Montserrat, Ireland, Russia ..."

Bullock said the most compassion for repressed minorities is found in the "silent majority."

But appreciating individuality is not enough, he said, adding that students must take a proactive stance against racism.


©Copyright 1998, The Alligator

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