The Race Task Force | Race still matters


Guest Column | A look at attitudes to race on Penn’s campus this year




Do you think there is racism among the Penn community?

In a recent survey conducted by the Race Task Force, 78.1 percent of participants answered “Yes” to this question.

The Race Task Force was developed in response to an incident reported by Liberal and Professional Studies student Christopher Abreu, after his peers reportedly shouted degrading racial slurs while he walked by.
Abreu’s opinion piece in The Daily Pennsylvanian sparked many conversations across campus.

Additionally, a silent protest was held on College Green. Students, faculty members, staff and community members gathered to show their support of a more inclusive environment.

The United Minorities Council even held a forum in place of their regularly scheduled meeting, in which undergraduate and graduate students alike came together to talk about the incident. Some expressed anger toward Abreu, others defended his vulnerable position.

Although the period shortly following the incident was characterized by intense reactions, a few months on, the fire that initially burned in the student body about this issue seems to have burnt out.

The Race Task Force took this opportunity to administer a survey that would hopefully get at the root of where change needs to begin. One question asked whether students felt that there were sufficient opportunities to learn about racial issues and hone cultural awareness.

Survey respondents were torn 50/50. In order to raise awareness and create a more inclusive environment, the participants suggested hosting films and forums, integrating racial issues into existing curriculum, educating professors and staff on race issues and collaborating events between groups.

While 91.6 percent of survey participants stated that they were never the targets of a racial incident on campus, 9 percent of participants — a significant number — stated they have been the target of racism.

This shows that more can be done to address racial issues on campus. It also demonstrates that just because we do not hear about racial incidents in the newspaper, does not mean they do not occur.

When participants were asked if they had witnessed a racial incident on Penn’s campus, 78.1 percent said no, but it is imperative to note that 57.3 percent of the participants were Caucasian.

Based on the survey results, it appears that the next best step is to develop a campus-wide forum, or series of lectures, that focus on race issues on campus.

There are many student groups working around diversity, interculturalism and inclusiveness. Therefore, we must all come together in order to truly make a difference on campus. The development and implementation of the survey was a step in the right direction and can serve as a starting ground for more activism around this issue.

The Race Task Force is part of the School of Social Policy & Practice. More information on the results of the survey may be obtained at sp2rtf@gmail.com.

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