An uncaged animal is free to do as it pleases. The animal is able roam the wilderness, interact with other animals, hunt for food, and simply be a free animal. When that creature is placed under captivity in a zoo it soon becomes a victim of change. Trees are traded for plastic, hunting exchanged for feedings, and the natural world replaced with tourists and children. When a wild animal acts the part of an animal it is the “circle of life.” When the zoo animal, with the same genetic makeup as a wild animal, acts the same part, it is killed for “acting out of line.” So when a gorilla in captivity reacts to someone entering his habitat, the gorilla is somehow at fault even though the gorilla had no control over the situation it was placed in. Not being able to understand what it is like to be Harambe the Gorilla in a zoo is not being able to understand what it is like to be black at a predominantly white institution; whether that institution be the University of Miami or, on a larger scale, the United States of America. United Black Students at the University of Miami is a group that aims to bridge the gap created by lack of awareness between blacks and whites through knowledge.
The University of Miami is not exactly known for its extensive black population. This is something that was not much of a thought when I originally stepped foot on campus. Coming from suburban upstate New York I was always accustomed to black people being a rarity and not expecting to have a large black community. Little did I know the University of Miami was about to throw that expectation out the window. Within days of being on campus I was introduced to an organization by the name of United Black Students. I came across this group’s table at CaneFest and knew they were the kind of people I could vibe with. I was meeting people through this organization that not only looked similar to me but had similar experiences and thoughts as I did. These same people were each individually so unique that it made the organization diverse. There were Greeks studying with geeks, African students sharing recipes with New York natives, pre-med students talking about life with music students, and the list goes on. People associate a group like United Black Students (UBS) with being all the same people, with all the same mind sets, in one group but that is the furthest thing from the truth.
Ignorance breeds hate and the world is full of both of those toxic ideas. One of the longest running and most notorious lack of knowledge relationships is that between blacks and whites. The differences between the two groups, whether cultural, appearance, attitude, or anything else, are apparent and often not understood. In order to fix the problems of the two groups on a large scale we need to become more educated starting on the small scale. UBS has many different approaches to helping people understand different viewpoints and educating those who simply do not know. There are forums that are open to the general public that talk about the issues being faced in the world. Forums are typically hosted somewhere in the Shalala Student Center and can be seen advertised all over social media and on the promotional posters that are hung up around campus. Anyone and everyone that is interested in the topics is both allowed and encouraged to attend. These forums include topics such as Black Lives Matter, Being Black in America, Natural Hair, Colorism, and many more. Attending these forums is helpful for both those who understand and those who don’t. For those who know and understand the issue being discussed in the forum it is a great space to voice your opinion openly with a group of people to help thrive a discussion or make things more clear. For those that may not know it is a first hand way to listen and understand where other people are coming from. Unfortunately, not many people come to these events for the sake of learning, and that is a problem.
People assume that since an event has to do with UBS it isn’t for them or it is only for black students. UBS is not a group that discriminates in any way including with its members or its events. The common argument against Black student groups is that they are not allowing white people in and are thus inherently racist. The kicker is that neither of those statements are true. Anyone that were to come to a meeting would learn that they too could be part of the group. I think whites and any other non-black students could benefit extremely from attending some of the meetings or forums because most of them are not hearing the information that black students talk about on a daily basis. This leads to assumptions instead of understanding. At a predominantly white institution it is hard to convince the majority that their feelings are not the feelings of others and are also not justified. This convincing is necessary to keep the conversation going and helping both groups better understand the other.
No one changes the world on their own. It takes a mind to make a movement and a movement to change the world. These ideas are great at face value and great for educating the groups here at Miami but it needs to spread farther from UM to South Florida to Florida and beyond. Right now I feel like UBS is not interacting on a large enough scale. While it is important to start small it is equally important to build from there. UBS is currently in a stagnant position and I fear of backward movement. I would love to see UBS spreading out and being parts of black student unions across the state and ultimately across the country. I envision myself on the executive board for the organization and being able to impact the world through it. Together we thrive and together we can teach. If the black students put aside their differences and come together for the common goal of aiding everyone in understanding everyone else, there can really be a monumental change.
One thing UBS taught me is that every individual is responsible for creating the spark that is change. If you want sympathy and understanding, you must inform. It is hard to sympathize without understanding and ever harder to understand without knowledge. United Black Students gives many opportunities to delve into that knowledge and learn about the struggles of being treated as a second class citizen that you hear about but do not experience. It’s all about whether or not you’re willing to put pride aside and learn. It’s okay not to know everything but choosing to be ignorant is something that can only be blamed on the individual.
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