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Prof, grad students say college response to Paris attacks an ‘implicit bias towards white life’

File under: “Damned If You Do … ”

A professor and two graduate students in the University of Denver’s Department of Communications Studies today assert in an op-ed for college’s newspaper, The Clarion, that university emails regarding the November terrorist attacks in Paris were “biased towards white life.”

“It is our opinion that, despite these emails, DU participates in making its ‘marginalized communities’ feel unwelcomed because of an implicit bias toward white life not extended to the lives of nonwhite people. Our discussion of Paris is not meant to ignore the loss of life there, but to point out the valorization of white life assumed by DU,” they write.

Professor Armond R. Towns and graduate students Raisa Alvarado and Jamie Guzmán say the university shows “no concern with life returning to ‘normal’ when ‘terrorists’ attack Muslims,” and that “the assumption is that DU is most impacted by events that occur in Western countries,” not in, for example, “Mexico, Kenya, Baltimore, Palestine, or Baghdad.”

From their letter:

Put differently, if “we” are “all” French now, this is clearly not meant to apply to DU’s Muslims. If a risk of study abroad is students finding “themselves in harm’s way,” what concern does DU have for its Muslim population (and all its people of color) here? If DU’s handling of racialized issues in 2015 is a hint, the answer to this question is none.

Two examples stick out: (1) In response to anti-black racism faced at the University of Missouri, a group of largely students of color in the Fall painted the wall near Driscoll with the words: “DU Stands in Solidarity with Mizzou.” No less than a day later, the wall was defaced with the words: “Pi Kappa Phi, DU’s #1 online fraternity.” While the fraternity denies painting the wall, DU’s email response is a simplistic colorblind argument: “Over the last two days, there have been community conversations about the experiences of people of color, particularly students, at the University of Denver. And while it may make us uncomfortable to admit it, the stories that students have shared highlight the prejudices we all carry and the inequalities we perpetuate…” Who are those uncomfortable with admitting racism exists on campus? Who is this “we” that perpetuate prejudice and inequality? It is clearly not DU’s people of color.

The second are the complaints by Denver “students of color” who resented white students dressing up in “stereotypically racist Halloween costumes.”

The trio cite a Latinx student who “reportedly” was sent photos of (white) students in Día de Los Muertos makeup with the supposedly insensitive caption “When people judge you for supposedly judging them – or rather, become a victim of their own delusions.”

This same student later was allegedly “demeaned” by (white) peers and a professor for “speaking out” about the incident.

“Here, racism is her burden alone, because DU says nothing,” the authors conclude.

Read the full op-ed.

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