UW-Madison alumni, staff and students weighed in on the nationwide discussions about racial prejudice at an event Wednesday evening.
“Unwelcome Americans: Racial Profiling in a Post 9/11 Era” was hosted by WUD Society and Film in partnership with the India Students Association, Muslim Student Association and Arab Student Association.
The discussion featured two UW-Madison alumni, Manny Soin and Dr. Madhu Verma Soin, a husband and wife duo who are self-proclaimed activists that focus on their own past experiences with racial prejudice to educate others.
Madhu, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from UW-Madison, explained that individuals have to advocate for themselves.
“Sometimes, racism is so implicit and ingrained in human nature, we don’t even realize when microaggressions are occurring,” Madhu explained. “We need to be aggressive, and point out when people are saying things that aren’t right.”
Manny also told current students who have experienced prejudice “don’t be afraid of it,” and urged them to have a good sense of their identities.
Students elaborated on the Soins’ comments in small group discussions. While racial prejudice is currently widespread in the U.S., students noted how many oversee that it is occurring locally as well, including at UW-Madison.
“If there is this kind of stuff happening right here, where we consider ourselves to be progressive thinkers, it’s scary to think of the prejudice that is happening in the rest of the country,” sophomore Omar Jandal said.
Students also brainstormed recourses to address prejudice.
“I see different ethnic groups in America sticking to themselves,” Jandal said. “I see people staying in their bubble... maybe because they feel safe or it’s the cultural norm. But we need to be in situations where we’re surrounded by all different types of backgrounds, discussing what is happening.”
Khuram Zaman, a UW-Madison graduate student, advised others to remain open to new ideas and backgrounds.
“We just need to try and learn about each other,” Zaman said. “Keep an open mind. Don’t just listen to the media or a certain set of people. Try new things and meet new people … That will help break down some of these barriers and stereotypes that we have.”