Tolerance, respect and terminating cultural ignorance were the themes of Thursday’s “Misconceptions and Stereotyping of People of Color in Mainstream Society” panel discussion at Florida State University.
With four different cultural perspectives making up the American Indian Student Union sponsored panel, an examination of cultural prejudices began.
“Racial profiling happens every day,” said Anita Gonzalez, an FSU Theatre professor. “We can see the ways that we ostracize people (in class.)”
Gonzalez said that not wanting to be around certain ethnicities is a manner of racial profiling. Others at the forum agreed.
“We live, breathe and walk every day in the most racist way,” said Susan Anderson, a Native American cultural activist and co-founder of AISU.
The racism that Anderson was referring to is the FSU Seminole mascot, which many Native Americans find offensive.
Anderson, who also headed the group to change the mascot of Rickards High School from the Redskins to the Raiders, said people have been desensitized to history when a person can become a mascot of a school.
“This country has no right to use as a mascot of an indigenous people,” she said. Although some supporters of the Seminole mascot justify its use by saying they are honoring the ancestry, Anderson said that is not the case.
“I see a mimicking of ceremonies that I hold dear,” Anderson said. some revisionist history going on. If people think this is an honor (they are wrong.) It is profound disrespect.”
The discussion continued with a change of cultural perspective. Brenda Jarmon, chairwoman of the department of social work at FAMU, reminisced about integrating an all-white high school. “They didn’t want me there, and I didn’t want to be there,” Jarmon said. “Believe me I know racism is alive and well in this country, and we’re on roller skates going backward.”
But Jarmon said that is not an excuse for intolerance and disrespect of a culture. “Move past tolerance,” she said. “Tolerate and respect as well. If you’re going to be culturally sensitive, you have to move outside the box.”
Eman Beck, treasurer of the FSU Muslim Student Association, also said there was an increase in discrimination toward Arabs and Muslims from the majority population.
“It is not only Arabs and Muslims who are being discriminated against, but people who look like they could be Arab or Muslim,” he said.
The panelist agreed that there is a long way to go before minority groups in America are no longer offended by intolerance and ignorance.
However, Anderson said it is up to these groups to decide what they will be offended by.
“It is never the right of the offender to ever say what is offensive,” Anderson said. “It is the right of the offended.”