Cultural Insensitivity Decried

Sara Joe Wolansky

Carlene Ferreira, a junior and the president of Cape Verdean Students at BU, participates in a discussion about cultural insensitivity in Tsai auditorium entitled "Under Our Skin". The event was sponsored by ethnic and cultural groups from colleges all over the Boston area.

Students from across Boston came together to discuss cultural insensitivity at an event hosted by Fuerza Latina in Tsai Auditorium last night.

The discussion was prompted by recent events on several university campuses, said Pamela M. Rosario Perez ’13, social chair of Fuerza Latina.

Some of the most salient triggers have been on Harvard’s campus. They include the controversy surrounding the Social Studies fund in honor of Marty Peretz—who posted derogatory comments about Muslims online before offering a public apology—and a party at Sigma Chi called “Conquistabros and Navajos,” Rosario Perez said.

“We wanted to open space for people to discuss this,” Rosario Perez said.

A panel composed of English and African American Studies professor Glenda R. Carpio, research associate at the Harvard Kennedy School Elliott Prasse-Freeman ’03, and president of Boston University’s Cape Verdean Student Association Carlene R. Ferreira began the dialogue with the question of how to be culturally sensitive without being overly cautious.

The members of the panel offered their personal definitions of cultural insensitivity but ultimately suggested that developing strategies to effectively and gracefully confront the issue was as important as defining the terms of discussion.

After the panel concluded, the audience took part in smaller breakout discussions with the panelists.

Nima Y. Hassan ’14 said that as a Muslim student, she found the event “valuable because it was talking about advocacy not just in terms of racial or religious or cultural minorities but also in terms of engaging the majority culture.”

Rosario Perez said she also was encouraged by the event. “We had students from different races and other backgrounds,” said Rosario Perez of the group that gathered. She added, “I’m happy with the fact that people were speaking out.”

The event—named Under Our Skin—was organized through a collaborative effort between student leaders of Harvard’s Fuerza Latina, BU’s Cape Verdean Student Association and Alianza Latina, and other collegiate cultural groups in Boston.

Joshua Hernandez ’14, a freshman representative of Fuerza Latina, said that while he felt that the event was worthwhile, future gatherings should have a broader focus. “It’s important to address privilege and disadvantage while not feeling trapped in your own disadvantage and not having that define your mind-set.”

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