College student fights to undo racism on campus

College student fights to undo racism on campus

February 28, 2003
Written by Staff Reports
Sarah Frazier
My first year at the University of Washington was full of many changes and adjustments. I was constantly being asked, "What's your major?" or "What do you want to be?" and it frustrated me that I didn't really have an answer.

What I did know is that I cared about people. When I heard about the Undoing Institutionalized Racism workshop at Covenant House, I immediately knew that this was what I wanted to be doing. I may not know what I want to do five or 10 years from now, but this was what I wanted to do now.

Combating racism is something that has always moved me and called to me. After growing up in multi-cultural Los Angeles, I was shocked by the lack of appreciation for diversity in the small, predominantly white town my family moved to in Washington.

In high school I realized that ignorance about various people and cultures was more of a problem than I had thought. Hence, I immediately jumped on the chance to attend the workshop at Covenant House in hopes that this would be a way for me to find out how I could make an honest difference.

The short, two-hour workshop was incredibly powerful. I realized that despite my passion about ending racism, I had a lot to learn about the issue and how society is affected by racist structures. In order to make a difference I had to start with chang- ing myself, and that meant educating myself about racism and about my role as a white person in a racist society. So I attended the two-day version of the workshop from Covenant House where my understanding about racism became clearer.

As a white person, I benefit everyday from the oppression of others. Realizing this, I could no longer be silent and passive. I joined a group on campus called Students Together Against Racism, along with our campus pastor the Rev. Brooke Rolston. Our group aims to demand change in the way the university oppresses people of color through various programs or practices. The main focus of our group this past year was on the UW police department, which has a history of racial profiling and lack of accountability to the students.

It has been a hard battle with the administration, and it may be long, but at least there is a voice. It is an incredible feeling to finally be making a change. And I am even more thankful for having a place like Covenant House for support and encouragement. Being involved in something I felt passionately about has begun to make my college experience much more meaningful and significant to me.

Sarah Frazier, a member of Northshore UCC in Woodinville, Wash., now serves on the United Ministry Council and the Campus Christian Ministry Board of Directors at the University of Washington.

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