By R. Paul Dyck
In recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism on Mar. 21, a group of campus organizations are planning events to combat on-campus racism.
"The whole point is to get people to answer the question ‘What would it take to make me think about racism?’" said Community Development Coordinator Dike Igboemeka. "It could just take you walking by, or it could take you stopping and learning some things."
The International Day for the Elimination of Racism was established to shed light on racist attitudes still present in society. According to the U of C Sexual Harassment Advisor Shirley Voyna-Wilson, these attitudes are evident at the U of C.
"I’ve had student, staff and faculty complaints of racism," said Voyna-Wilson. "They vary from some things that would be quite blatant to things that are a far more subtle form or unconscious, but clearly evidence of bias or stereotype."
A variety of events focused on confronting racism are scheduled from Mar. 14-21. Among the events planned are media presentations, forums, and several speakers and performers, including the renowned Rubin "the Hurricane" Carter.
"One of the reasons why we felt it was important to do a week of activities is we wanted to plan a wide range of activities that would engage the different sectors of the campus community," said Voyna-Wilson. "We’ve tried to do things that will provide an opportunity for students, staff and faculty to get engaged in the way that works best for them."
Sponsors for the week’s events come from a diverse collection of campus organizations, including the Students’ Union.
"I don’t think it’s an overwhelming problem, but I think that racism still exists on this campus and we have to be aware of that," said SU President Rob South. "We have to promote events like this because it’s only through education and promotion of tolerance can we eliminate racism."
U of C’s efforts are part of a nation-wide initiative to increase and nurture respect, equality and diversity in Canada. One such response is a national petition.
"They’re hoping to get two million signatures by Mar. 21 as part of the petition," said Voyna-Wilson. "People can do that on the web if they wish to make a statement."
Organizers hope the International Day for the Elimination of Racism will encourage tolerance and diversity at the U of C.
"I think that it deserves attention all year round," said the Cultural Diversity Institute’s Associate Director of Programs Lillian Nakamora-Maguire. "We’re creating a community here, and I think people have to realize that we’re a mixture of so many races, ethnicities and religions."
"This hopefully is just a starting point," she added.
Students interested in additional information and resources regarding the International Day for the Elimination of Racism can visit the national website at www.march21.com and the university website at www.fp.ucalgary.ca:8030/stopracism.