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Forum: We need to talk about race

Communication on race relations hasn't been great in recent years, a group of University of South Florida students agreed on Thursday.

At a noon forum, several students said that everyone should talk more about race and racism.

USF minority recruiter Sam Wright, who organized the event attended by 60 students, teachers and administrators, said the forum was set up to expose people to different ideas about race relations.

"What we need to do is to continue to offer opportunities for the exchange (of ideas) to take place," Wright said. "There's a lot of unhealthiness running around in people's minds because they don't get a chance to open up and pour out their hearts."

Two panelists said they didn't know if an honest discussion of race relations could take place between blacks and whites until economic questions had been addressed in the black community.

Black Student Union president Nathaniel Campbell said, "I think that when you're African in America, or on the continent of Africa, and you've been on the political, social and economic beat-down for the past 400 years, . . . there's no such thing as being too militant, too radical, too leftist."

Terrence Wilson, a columnist for the campus newspaper The Oracle, agreed.

"African people did not come to this country by choice," Wilson said. "In order for African people to get out of this hellhole that we live in today, I do advocate revolution."

Forum moderator Sandra Garcia, a USF psychology professor, cautioned that any revolution must remain purposeful. "Let's keep communication going, let's not have purposeless radicalism," she said.

Garcia said improving race relations is something that everyone has to participate in.

"How can we do it? It's not like, take a white boy to lunch, or speak to a Negro today," Garcia said. "We have to talk about how to keep (communication) going."

But barriers to communication exist, one panelist said. And those barriers have arisen from the way in which the country has tried to solve some problems that blacks have faced in the past.

Oracle managing editor Billy Newland, a graduate student, said Affirmative Action programs initiated 20 years ago have angered many white Americans and don't seem as relevant to many whites as they did when they were started.

He said there are many minority groups in America, the smallest of which is the white middle-class American male.

"Affirmative Action is probably the most effective tool for fostering the politics of hate," Newland said. "It's responsible for a lot of misrepresentation and a lot of ill-thinking. Maybe it's time we get rid of it in the form that it exists. Maybe it shouldn't be based on anything other than need."