Cops and Cameras

Event Summary

Oct. 25, 2017

 

Rohan Chakraborty

On October 25, UVA’s chapter of YLA (Young Americans for Liberty) hosted Jonathan Blanks of the CATO Institute.  As stated on the CATO Institute website, “Blanks is a Research Associate in Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice and a Writer in Residence at Harvard University’s Fair Punishment Project. His research is focused on law enforcement practices, over-criminalization, and civil liberties.” Blanks gave an hour-long talk about the flawed criminal justice system and police brutality currently present in America.  Blanks stated that if cops can articulate to the judge that they felt weary for their life when interacting with a possibly violent person, they can easily avoid prosecution even if they caused physical harm to the person or took their life.  This has resulted in quite a few incidents in which police officers have been able to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.  Thanks to individuals such as Blanks, progress is being made in order to eradicate the corrupt system prevalent in our nation.  

Spotlight: Priyal Gandhi

 

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Priyal Gandhi

CLAS 2017

Neuroscience Major & Women, Gender, and Sexuality Minor

17495527_10212363818320714_1522134485_n.jpgWhat inspired you to get involved with the Indian Student Association?

My first year I found some upperclassmen mentors who encouraged me to try for the First Year Liaison position on the ISA Exec Board. Through that I met a whole network of amazing upperclassmen mentors and friends and the ability to connect with a lot of different people in my class. So I decided to run for President of ISA because I wanted to give back to a community which really gave me a good sense of belonging.

What is it like being a minority student at UVA?

I did this really interesting activity in Sustained Dialogue once where they made us map out UVA and write which identities were most salient in those areas. And prior to creating that map, I hadn’t realized how specific spaces make me feel more aware of my minority status. So I think it really depends on where you are. For example, I teach refugees English on the third floor of O-Hill Dining Hall and there my identity as someone who is socioeconomically more privileged is very evident. And then I go somewhere like my WGS classes or Clark or Clem or Alderman and the feeling I have of being a minority student is very different depending on how many other students of color are around.

“Prior to creating that map [of Grounds], I hadn’t realized how specific spaces make me feel more aware of my minority status.”

What is it like being a minority leader at UVA?

Being a minority leader and being elected into these executive board positions means you have the power and privilege to leverage your authority to improve systems at UVA for other minority students. So it is sometimes very difficult for minority leaders because UVA students place more value on “it” organizations like Honor and Guides while the value placed on cultural organizations is not as evident. I’m lucky to be a part of ISA which is one of the largest cultural organization on grounds. But I’ve been in meetings with for example, really small Asian organizations that do incredible work and are equally, if not more, invested in their missions, but they are just inherently less valued and less respected by their peers.

“A lot of minority students self-weed-out for lawn rooms, don’t apply to be Resident Advisers or Orientation Leaders, etc. because they feel that they don’t match a specific type of mold.”

What is the greatest challenge facing the minority community today? How can we overcome this challenge?

The overall membership of the minority community – and not all, because there are many amazing leaders working hard to enact meaningful change – is extremely apathetic and resigned and comfortable with the status quo. And some of that comes from just being uniformed. It’s not that people don’t care, they just don’t understand how certain things will impact them. Additionally, a lot of minority students self-weed-out for lawn rooms, don’t apply to be RAs or OLs, etc. because they feel that they don’t match a specific type of mold. And it’s extremely unfortunate because much of this resignation comes from the lack of recognition that minority organizations receive for their work. For example, I go to the competitions of culturally and ethnically based club sports like dance teams, where these students train 12-20 hours a week, scream UVA at the top of their lungs, and put in all their efforts. But then they come back to UVA and it is unfortunate when their work goes unrecognized. Overcoming this resignation to the status quo involves getting people engaged and active and aware of the existing systems that might be pitched against them. So I loved the Town Hall, I thought that was great.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to other minority students at UVA? 

There is nothing wrong with being heavily involved in a cultural/minority organization. It does not mean that it is your only identity. And it does not mean that just because you share a part of your identity with these other people that all of a sudden you’re all the same, that you’re some homogeneous group. Join a minority organization to learn more about people who have something in common with you. Get active in these organizations and then leverage what you’ve done for this university within these communities in the way you talk to others and write your applications. Because even though you are not always getting recognized for your hard work, you’re doing important and amazing things.

“There is nothing wrong with being heavily involved in a cultural/minority organization. It does not mean that it is your only identity. And it does not mean that just because you share a part of your identity with these other people that all of a sudden you’re all the same, that you’re some homogeneous group.”

 


Know someone you’d like to see as the Minority Leader Spotlight? Submit nominations here!

Spotlight: Shannon Khurana

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Shannon Khurana

CLAS 2018

shannon.pngTell me about the organizations you are involved with on Grounds.
“My journey began in the Queer Community as a volunteer at the LGBTQ center. Staffing the desk once a week gave me a lot of insight into all the programming both the Queer Student Union and LGBTQ Center were putting on. I quickly was able to make friends and find support. I had just recently come out to family and was struggling to stay afloat. Today my love for the queer community largely comes from the debt I owe to it when I was experiencing troublesome times and my desire to pave a place for people of color in queer spaces. I currently serve as the Vice President of Student Activism in QSU and as the Speakers Bureau Intern for the LGBTQ Center. That has led to many of the co-sponsored events with organizations such as LSA and beyond. Making intersectionality an inherent part of the community is a slow process but one I am ready to keep pushing forward. I hope to one day attend law school and focus into civil rights in my career. Interning at the women’s center’s legal clinic was then a great fit as the missions of the women’s center along with my personal aspirations flowed together nicely. I am proud to be serving in those spaces.”

What is one project/campaign you are currently working on?

“I am always working on a number of projects. In the past in QSU I have worked on lobbying for gender neutral housing and currently oversee a committee to ensure the successful roll out of HRL’s new “Open Housing” option – which has all the accommodations of gender neutral housing and more. Last semester my committee and I piloted a positive representation library by carefully reviewing queer media and creating listings of books, movies, and music that shine light on and uplift the queer community. Those media pieces are now available in Levering Hall thanks to the WGS department. This semester my committee and I are working on creating a new student mentorship program. This resource has not previously been available for the LGBTQ community and we hope to pilot it soon.

Through the Women’s Center Free Legal Clinic I am pulling together a ‘Transgender Name Change and Rights Clinic’. Knowing many trans people are already using the UVA hospital as a safe place to seek out safe and empathetic medical assistance it is about time a legal clinic aiding that community was instituted.”


Today my love for the queer community largely comes from the debt I owe to it when I was experiencing troublesome times and my desire to pave a place for people of color in queer spaces.


What is it like being a minority leader?

“It’s a mixed experience. Every minority leader will tell you how they become a walking token for important conversations that need a representative from their respective community. It is frustrating that our view points are not otherwise covered. Often it can also feel like initiatives to help the minority community have been exported on to the students, but at the same time it is a great feeling to know that the power is in our hands to make progress. There are moments were I want nothing more than to burn down the house, but I know that burning down this house will leave us with nothing. It is then my prerogative to help build and bolster the long term safety and success of my peers through patient negotiation and incremental steps of thoughtful progress.”

What is the greatest challenge facing the minority community today? How can we overcome this challenge?

“The greatest challenge in the minority community today is the lack of allyship and the creation of a hierarchy of which community has it the worst. For me this points to two recommended steps forward. The first is to remain introspective of what your community can do better. For instance, in QSU we could do more to create more space for different kinds of queer people other than LGB and create more targeted programming for queer people of color. (This is coming this semester, just y’all wait and see). The second step is dedicated outreach. No fight for equality exists in a vacuum and we can all do more to make sure we are standing up for each other, even if one community arguably has nothing to offer the other at the surface level. Advocacy means empathy. Activism is healing.”


No fight for equality exists in a vacuum and we can all do more to make sure we are standing up for each other, even if one community arguably has nothing to offer the other at the surface level.


What is one piece of advice you’d give to other minority students at UVA?

“Listen, listen, listen, and don’t make assumptions based on one bad experience or misspeaking community member. Fight to make your community better and stand in solidarity with issues facing the minority community as a whole even if you don’t have a direct stake of identity in them.”

 


Know someone you’d like to see as the Minority Leader Spotlight? Submit nominations here!

MSA joins the MRC

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On Sunday, November 6, 2016, the Board of the Minority Rights Coalition unanimously voted to add a chair for the Muslim Students Association.

With this expansion, the MRC at UVa now consists of the following 9 organizations: the Black Student Alliance (BSA), Latino Student Alliance (LSA), Asian Leadership Council (ALC), Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC), Native American Student Union (NASU), United for Undergraduate Socio-Economic Diversity (UFUSED), Queer Student Union (QSU), Feminism is For Everyone (FIFE), and the Muslim Students Association (MSA).

The MRC at UVa believes this addition will bring voice to a community not previously represented by the Coalition, and welcomes the MSA to the board.

Find out more about the MSA at their Facebook page or email them at msacouncil@gmail.com.

 

 

My culture is not a costume

Cultural appropriation (n): the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.

The Latino Student Alliance’s campaign, “My culture is not a costume,” has brought together six minority student groups to ask UVA students to watch what they wear. They posted a statement on Facebook yesterday:

“This Halloween, we would like to remind you that a culture is not a costume. Incorrectly wearing clothing from a culture not your own results in a misrepresentation of that culture and often perpetuates harmful stereotypes – stereotypes many have dedicated their lives to dismantling. Some articles of clothing used for these “harmless” costumes are in fact considered sacred and inappropriate to be worn outside of their original settings. So we, Asian Leaders Council, Black Student Alliance, Indian Student Association, Latino Student Alliance, Middle Eastern Leadership Council, and Native American Student Union, members of the minority community here at UVA, ask you to consider your costume, what it represents and how it could affect marginalized members of your community.”

As students of UVA, we ought to hold ourselves to higher standards and take a closer look at the costumes we choose to wear this weekend, on Halloween itself, and every day thereafter.

To learn more about cultural appropriation, check out the following resources (click to follow links):

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cultural Appropriation

Why Cultural Appropriation is Wrong

Cultural Exchange vs. Cultural Appropriation