LSA program associate Elizabeth James speaks to audience about privilege, power, and stereotypes at the Beyond Black and White panel in Tauber Colloquium Wednesday evening. Photo Credit: Keemya Esmael

On Wednesday night, around 80 students gathered in the Tauber Colloquium to discuss the history of power, privilege and stereotypes as a person of color. Spearheaded by the United Asian American Organization, the panel was a coalition of four POC organizations on campus: UAAO, Black Student Union, La Casa and Arab Student Association. The panel featured faculty advisors and staff in multicultural leadership roles throughout campus.

Titled “Beyond Black and White: Marginalized Identities in Academia”, Business senior Chandra Sahu told The Daily after the event that she thinks it’s unique to campus.

“I haven’t seen a collaboration with organizations of these identities in all of my four years,” Sahu said. “I think it’s easy to feel that there is a divisiveness between different kinds of students of color so it’s nice to have a reminder. Because coalition building is how change happens.”

Robert Sellers, Chief Diversity Officer and vice provost for Equity and Inclusion, served as the moderator and began the event by discussing the need for solidarity among people of color. He asked the panel how their respective communities would respond to hate crimes perpetrated on other marginalized groups. The question came amid recent hate crimes directed towards minorities on the University's campus and a report from the FBI which claimed U-M had the second most reported hate crimes in 2017.


Elizabeth James, faculty advisor of the Black Student Union, explained that competition inevitably exists between different student groups because of the lack of resources on campus. She encourages the audience to work across these different groups and connect to those outside of one’s respective identity group.

“We may never realize how we are trying to fit into a system that was never meant for us,” James said. “So that means that we need to break out of these boxes that we have been put into and look across at each other. The collective is always stronger than the individual. I don’t adhere to the idea of the victors and the best. I think that we’re all striving to be the best of what we can be. The only person you should be in competition with is yourself, to be a better person.”