On Sept. 18, I woke up early to join several hundred students, faculty and those in the community to show my support of fighting against institutionalized racism in The University of Alabama community. What I saw was very different than what I expected.
President Judy Bonner met the crowd outside Rose Administration, with what appeared to be private security, to listen to the words of Khortlan Patterson and Yardena Wolf, take photos and then go back into her office. The common theme of the rally, from the organizers and the women’s speeches, appeared to be opposition to institutionalized racism within The University of Alabama community. So far, many of those marchers have not shown much of an initiative to actually do that beyond the greek system.
Institutional racism refers to inferiorization or antipathy perpetrated by specific social institutions. This form of racism is not limited to organizations that specifically discriminate against people of certain races. It also includes institutions where there is not an official or intentional policy of racism, but the actual functioning involves discrimination.
The march to Rose Administration showed that many in the University community are willing to stand against obvious specific discrimination against the black women who attempted rush in the traditionally white sororities. However, the changes that have been pushed by the University in coordination with the greek system do not solve the problem of institutional racism.
The University administration has said they reopened bidding to “remove barriers in order to increase diversity in our sororities,” but they have not made clear what long-term changes they plan to implement to the greek system as a whole. To actually ensure that the University takes the fight against institutional racism seriously, there must be more pressure on the administration to reveal possible plans. The Faculty Senate’s plan to form a committee to investigate possible changes to the UA policies toward greek and other student organizations is a great start to fighting institutional racism and pressuring the administration. The problem becomes taking steps beyond just student organizations if the Faculty Senate’s actions get change.
According to the UA website, 13 percent of the students enrolled this fall are black, compared to 26 percent of the state. Despite that number being rather sizable, the percent of black full-time faculty, according to the most recent data I could find, is 5.79 percent. This difference is true of administrators as well, with 10.58 percent being black. Confronting institutional racism is far more than just ensuring equal access to student organizations.
The University community must also confront and pressure the University over these types of statistics as well. Several hundred of The University of Alabama community went out to protest against greek institutional racism on Sept. 18. The question I’m left with is whether many of them will continue to fight against potential institutional racism when divisive issues such as the Machine and greek organizations are not the focus.
Matthew Bailey is a second-year law student. His column runs biweekly on Monday.