Student group hosts ‘Summit on Racism’ to address issues

Seth Woehrle

As hate crimes against Arabs increase across the country, a University student group voiced criticism of racial profiling and hyper-patriotism.

Friends in Places that Help, a black student group, is putting together a “Summit on Racism” on the West Bank. It began Tuesday evening and will conclude Thursday night.

On Tuesday, a four-member panel spoke on topics ranging from anti-war activism to the prejudice of Americans.

The audience initially filled only 11 seats in the large auditorium, but grew to about 25 before the event was over.

Shervon Cassim, a law student at the University and native Sri Lankan who grew up in the United Arab Emirates, was one of the four panelists.

“America’s biggest weakness right now is its ignorance,” he said. “It needs to take the opportunity to look at itself, how it deals with its own citizens and its place in the world.”

His companions on the panel took turns speaking about that ignorance, the war in Afghanistan and the reasons for the Sept. 11 attacks.

“You can’t plant hatred and not expect to reap hatred,” said panelist Ezra Hyland, a General College professor in African-American literature.

Nasreen Mohamed, who was born in South Asian, raised in Tanzania who now works in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office, spoke about the negative aspects of patriotism.

“When Sept. 11th happened, my feelings were pretty numb,” she said. “The next day I was driving to work and I saw a van with a sign that said `Nuke ’em.’ I started becoming the enemy at that point.”

As the summit ended, Dipankar Mukherjee, artistic director of the Pangea World Theatre, spoke of the concern Arab and South Asian relatives overseas had for their kin in the United States.

“My mother called me collect from India to tell me, `I won’t put the phone down until you shave your beard … and don’t wear black,'” he said.

The final Summit on Racism event will be Thursday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Wiley Hall.

Speakers will include the founder of Women Against Military Madness, an Indian-American medical student and a staff member from the African American Learning Resource Center.


Seth Woehrle welcomes comments at [email protected]