UMD Community Rises Above “-Isms”

by BREANA BACON

This week, campus has been buzzing about different events hoping to change the atmosphere relating to discrimination and the use of slight or often subtle insults toward a marginalized person or group that maintains exclusion, called microaggressions.

The second-annual “Rise Above -Isms” campaign kicked off this week. The campaign was started by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion last year and includes panel discussions and activities to create awareness about the necessity to eliminate assumptions and biases occurring throughout the UMD community.

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Signs advertising this week’s Rise Above events are seen all throughout campus. (Breana Bacon/Pulsefeedz)

There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this week’s events, with many students advertising the campaign early with videos and tweets, encouraging their fellow students to attend.  

Monday’s discussion entitled “#ITooAmMaryland: Responses to Racial Microaggressions” sparked a strong use of Twitter to express reactions to various racial micro-aggressions which Maryland’s black community faces. Such comments as “You’re pretty, for a dark-skinned girl,” were touched on at the event and declarations made to overcome these prejudices carried over to social media after the event concluded.

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On Tuesday, another “-ism” was discussed: rankism, defined as discriminatory behavior towards someone because of their ranking in hierarchy.

Dr. Robert Fuller presented his Rankism and Dignity Theory, as explained in his “action-oriented guide” called Dignity for All: How to Create a World Without Rankism.

Fuller gave detailed accounts of being the president of Oberlin College, a small liberal arts college in Ohio, and how his dedication to education reform led to his increasing the number of minority students enrolled in the college.

Among his points about various “-isms,” Fuller also shared his belief that rankism is the “mother of all the -isms.” He said he believed that rankism played a large role in the establishment of slavery, with the whites believing that they outranked Africans in all categories and thus, they deserved to act as their servants. Dr. Fuller added that cultural, racial or ethnic groups sometimes feel that by disadvantaging other groups, their group may gain an advantage.

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Dr. Robert Fuller answers questions of UMD students after his presentation on rankism. (Breana Bacon/Pulsefeedz)

The next two events on Wednesday were about minorities within minority groups.

The first was the Queer Monologues Open Mic held in the basement of Stamp, near the Food Co-op. The event was for members of UMD’s LBGTQ community to share stories of how they’ve overcome the stereotypes and discrimination they experienced during their lives.

Many people in the community, not just LBGTQ members, came out to the event to share written stories, poetry, and personal accounts. The next was a forum entitled “Nothing About Us, Without Us,” held in McKeldin Library. The forum, held for students and community members with disabilities, was meant to discuss their experiences and to empower them to overcome discrimination and bias toward them.

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All members of the UMD community were open to share stories and poetry with an audience in the basement of Stamp Student Union. (Breana Bacon/Pulsefeedz)

The final event, a symposium on the Child Migrant Crisis, will feature representatives from the Embassy of El Salvador and local immigration and resource center. The symposium is meant to spark discussion about the prevalence of immigration and the children it affects in the United States and in our community at Maryland.

The effects of Rise Above have already displayed themselves among students and faculty at UMD. Minority students as well as those of majority races have all met on common ground via social media and at these events to show support in ending the use and spread of these “-isms” and to embrace diversity in the community.