Rowan AWARE meets to discuss how white people can help end racism

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In the wake of President Donald Trump’s new immigration ban, Rowan AWARE: Alliance of Whites Aspiring Toward Racial Equity held its first meeting of the semester for students to engage in a discussion about race and the actions white people can take to help to end racism.

In a conference room in Robinson Hall, students had a conversation about those who are affected by the ban and how to help as a, “white ally.”

“AWARE is about creating awareness,” said co-facilitator of AWARE JoAnna Murphy, during the club’s introduction.

Only two students were in attendance at the meeting discussing the ban. They also talked about what was currently happening in the Black Lives Matter movement as well as white superiority, and how to approach a conversation about race.

“I really like what this club is about,” said junior communication studies major Aleeyah Oliphant.

The club accepts every student that attends, but its main focus is to teach white students how to become better allies with people who do not share the same privileges, according to Murphy.

“It is different than saying, ‘we’re not inviting voices to the table,’ because as important as those voices are to the conversation, AWARE’s actual agenda is aimed at people who have privileged identities, which includes their whiteness, coming into a space and learning how to be a better ally,” said Murphy, who is also Assistant Director of Women’s and Inclusion Programs.

As two of the available self-identifying white people in the office of Office of Social Justice Inclusion and Conflict Resolution, Murphy and Flora Ruli, a graduate coordinator of LBTQIA+ and Inclusion Programs, have been chosen to co-facilitate AWARE.

People of color already spend tremendous amount of time fighting against racism in their lives; it is the people who identify as white that also need to become active in creating change, Murphy said.

“White people need to become better allies and they need to become active allies,” Murphy said.

Murphy, expressed that she does not know nor pretend to know what it is like to experience racism. But, to her, it is still important to fight back against those systems that oppress people of color.

“It could be something as simple as not tolerating a racist joke; that’s being an active ally,” Murphy said.

One of the club’s main purposes is to teach white students how to speak up when engaged or witness-to racist dialogue, according to the club.

The club usually attracts more members, according to junior psychology and sociology major, Jeraca Marsh, who has been a member of AWARE since fall 2016.

“It’s important for white people to understand what this club discusses because even if you aren’t racist, you still benefit from our racist system, and it’s important to know about this, so you contribute to that change,” said Marsh.

The club also expressed how they approach certain topics on social media. Platforms such as Facebook came up most often, with attendees sharing their thoughts on controversial posts written by people they knew from high school.

For Oliphant, it was interesting to see, how many of her previous classmates posted or shared racial opinions after graduating from high school.

Both Marsh and Murphy shared their frustration with Oliphant about the ignorant posts that they see on social media.

“Any discussion about race and how it positively and negatively impacts people is extremely important and this club serves as a nonjudgmental safe space for people to learn as much as possible,” Marsh said.

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