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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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50 years later: Symposium delves into legacy of landmark legislation

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Tanner Garza — THE BATTALION Patricia Williams, Collumbia law professor, was the keynote speaker Thursday for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 symposium.

Inequality continues in America 50 years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, according to speakers at a civil rights symposium in the Rudder Theatre Complex on Thursday.
The interdisciplinary event, titled “Global Citizens and Equality: 50 Years After the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” was a day-long event sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and a number of other entities, including the Bush School, the College of Liberal Arts and the Texas A&M School of Law.
The symposium hosted several guests with varied backgrounds and fields of study, including keynote speaker Patricia Williams, professor at the Columbia University School of Law.
Williams said the discussion about social inequalities is one wrought with emotion, but it is one certainly worth having. She proposes that people take steps toward the boundaries they have created and open up a dialogue so that communities might overcome these issues.
Christine Stanley, vice president and associate provost for diversity at Texas A&M, gave the introductory remarks for the event and said it’s important to remember that the civil rights Act didn’t resolve all the problems associated with discrimination and these continued inequalities warrant great attention.
“While, without a doubt, we have made progress, there are still far too many of us in higher education — our communities, society and world, for example — who still face racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, anti-semitism and xenophobia,” Stanley said. “The intersectionalities associated with the experiences have not been troubled enough, in my opinion. Social conditions and social factors still abound.”
Joe Feagin, professor of sociology at Texas A&M, spoke of the history behind the civil rights legislation of the 1960s and said past discrimination is what led to the inequalities of the United States today.
“Past discrimination also becomes present racial inequality,” Feagin said. “One of the reasons that whites have the position they do today is because we have inherited the inequalities that were gained by our predecessors. Recent research by one of our graduate students, Jennifer Mueller, found huge racial differences in acquisition and intergenerational transfer of wealth and social capital over three-plus generations.”
Feagin said research shows there are still high levels of racial discrimination — even for middle-class minorities.
“There are dozens of social science research studies showing continuing racial discrimination against black Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and Middle Eastern Americans,” Feagin said. “Research shows 90 percent of blacks in interviews report continuing discrimination in blatant, subtle and covert forms.
Cedric Powell, professor at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, was a guest speaker on the panel “Education: Equal But Separate?” and said the 1974 Milliken v. Bradley Supreme Court decision — which allowed de facto segregation as long as it wasn’t a direct policy of the school district — was a large blow to equality in the U.S.
“The rhetoric employed by the court in Milliken [v. Bradley] is really a neutral rhetoric that should be unpacked and deconstructed for what it really is — the pervasive preservation of white privilege,” Powell said.
Powell said there is still hope for educational equality, however.
“That hope really rests upon the grass-roots level. When all is said and done Milliken is one of the worst decisions of the court, but there is hope in our actions here on the ground,” Powell said. “The solution on the ground is through partnerships between local and state policy makers which are not separated by school district boundary lines but united in a common purpose to make substantive educational equality a reality.”
Rogelio Saenz, dean of the College of Public Policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said discrimination comes with the absence of funding for public schools.
“We also see attacks on bilingual education,” Saenz said. “We see cuts to public schools. Here in the state of Texas in 2011 the state legislature cut $5.4 billion from public schools at the time that Latino kids became the majority of students at the K-12 level.”
Saenz also said the voter identification laws are a form of discrimination in the United States.
“We also see it with voter ID,” Saenz said. “Now requiring in the state and the country that so few people vote, we create barriers to keep people from exercising their democratic right to vote. And of course, people who are less likely to have official documents are African-Americans, Latinos, the poor, youths, for example, the elderly and so forth.”
Dorothy Houston, College Station community member, said she attended the symposium because she desired to hear others discuss the topic of racism in America.
“There needs to be a change, and it takes all of us collectively to make that change,” Houston said. “But we all must want it first.”
Houston said students have a voice and have the ability to do something on their campus and in their community about the social inequalities that occur.
Houston sat at the same luncheon table as Suzanne Droleskey, executive director of Public Partnership and Outreach in the Office of Provost at Texas A&M.
“You really can’t be an Aggie if you don’t buy into the idea that the Aggie Family really is a family,” Droleskey said. “So if you perceive that someone is being treated unfairly and you are a witness to that, then you need to be more than a witness.”
Serena Reese, university studies junior, attended the symposium and believes awareness of social inequality still needs to grow.
“Some people know there are still a problem out there, but others are still so blind to believe that there is not a problem anymore,” Reese said.

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