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Activist Simon Tam and a discussion about racism

Activist Simon Tam and a discussion about racism

Social activist Simon Tam spoke at a free event in the Coliseum on Tuesday. Tam illustrated the need for an open dialogue about racism in America. Matthew Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

Activist Simon Tam and a discussion about racism
October 27
20:04 2015

Sarah Lagro | Staff Writer

@Lagroski

Social activist Simon Tam joined the campus community for a discussion on race Tuesday with about 200 students and staff in the Coliseum.

“We can’t keep pretending the R-word doesn’t exist,” Tam said. “It does, and it’s widely spread on a systemic level.”

Tam said some people might not realize they’re being racist because they hold a certain stereotype in their mind, adding that Americans often avoid uncomfortable conversations and labels when it comes to racism.

Tam, who is Asian-American, said a man once assumed he was an expert on sushi, an instance Tam laughed off. He said the man was only trying to make him comfortable but added, “Those microagressions add up. Instead of being hostile, I calmly corrected him.”

Tam’s vist was a part of an ongoing schedule of forums hosted by the College of Public Affairs and Community Service. The dean of the college, Thomas Evenson, mentioned the previous forums hosted by PACS, including one on hunger, bullying and mental illness.

“In order to make a change, we must listen, and we must do something,” Evenson said.

Stereotypes and ideologies, Tam said, affect the way a person handles certain social situations, sometimes in a harmful way. He said perpetuating stereotypes could cause prejudice and that people should ask questions before they make assumptions about someone because of their race.

“Not all meaningful conversations have to be a debate,” Tam said. “Don’t set out to prove them wrong. Instead, get to the bottom of why they feel that way.”

Tam said a person should listen softly and refrain from using labels. He said to keep an open, non-judgmental mindset when discussing racism instead of openly judging the other person for sharing their side.

“My struggle comes from a system of oppression, not beliefs,” Tam said. “We must gradually disassemble the system as gradually as it was built.”

28_Race forum-3

Students, faculty and locals attended social activist Simon Tam’s lecture at the Coliseum on Tuesday morning. Tam shared personal experiences with racism and the lessons that he learned from them. Matthew Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

Another step toward a meaningful conversation is to ask questions and be compassionate because questions give a person control over the situation. Asking for sources, definitions and clarification usually leads to the reasoning behind someone’s actions, Tam said.

Staying informed on public issues, data and statistics will help a person’s credibility in an argument. He said it’s beneficial, but numbers don’t always convince people. Sharing stories and personal experiences with racism and oppression has a lasting effect.

Tam told the crowd about his band, The Slants, and its fight to trademark the name. He said the band was turned down because the term “slant” was offensive to Asian-Americans. The band name was a form of cultural appropriation to take away the offensiveness of the word. Despite support from the Asian community, Tam said they continuously get rejected.

“The laws that are supposed to protect minorities are being used against them,” Tam said. “I can’t stand by while we are being denied something for being too Asian.”

Racism, Tam said, is fed by fear, corruption and ignorance. The final step is to do what’s right and take action. He said people need to be informed, registered voters so the right political candidates get support and change the way things are done.

The next speaker in the racism discussion series is Burlyce Logan, one of the first African-American students to attend North Texas State University. The event will be held Nov. 5 in Chilton Hall.

Featured Image: Social activist Simon Tam spoke at a free event in the Coliseum on Tuesday. Tam illustrated the need for an open dialogue about racism in America. Matthew Brown | Senior Staff Photographer

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