Civic engagement panel dissects marginalization and race relations

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Photo by Gary Hatch

This is a white world we live in and we play by the white rules, according to Jacob Rugh, BYU professor of sociology.

UVU’s Black Student Union organized a panel discussion centered around the topic of marginalization within social communities in order to open a dialogue of race and gender identity. The event featured four individuals from various backgrounds of social work, nursing, public affairs and crisis services.

Rugh has an extensive educational background regarding race, neighborhood space and immigration, which allowed him to discuss the concepts surrounding white space versus black space.

He spoke about his discussion of race with two upper-class women of color on a plane while traveling to New Orleans. As the three of them talked, one woman shared the experiences she had growing up.

“When people talk to her, her blackness is the master status that overrides her sense of identity,” Rugh said. “She felt very isolated. She felt like she was judged on the color of her skin in ways that are more indirect.”

The reality of white space versus black space concluded that it is other races, mostly black communities, that are adjusting to white space rather than the other way around, Rugh shared.

“Too quickly do those in white suburban places refer to spaces predominately black as the ‘ghetto,’” Rugh said. “Even if it was well sustained and had more money than the white place. We must not confuse race with class.”

Not only was marginalization of race discussed at the event, but LGBTQ issues were discussed as well.

“There is a need for us to have meaningful discussions,” said Barney Nye, director of Multicultural Student Services at UVU and member of the panel.

“LGBT people are more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent crime over people of a black community or those that are Jewish,” said Karen Deysher, program manager of LGBT Student Services of UVU. “It is also important to remember our identities are intersectional in nature so transwomen of color are the most likely to be attacked.”

Deysher emphasized that attacking individuals based on their identity is “completely unacceptable.”

The panel focused on the need to apprise these issues of marginalization.

“The silence is deadly,” said Nye. “The conversation is uncomfortable for people in privileged positions. It’s uncomfortable. For people of marginalized positions, it is often deadly and that is the most frightening part.”

Terryell Smith, co-president of BSU and a criminal justice/ social work major at UVU, shared his views on what the university is doing to close racial barriers.

“We are on our way,” Smith said. “As we have more conversations like this and are able to put off barriers to be more vulnerable, we will get there. We are making good strides but there is more we could do.”