More than 300 students joined to voice concerns about racism in health and educational institutions Thursday.

Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, the keynote speaker, said institutional racism is just as much a problem as racism at the individual level.
“It is important for people to be able to look outside of their individual circumstances to understand the experiences of others, to understand the larger decision-making processes that create the range of circumstances in a community and who is found where,” she said.
Gabriel Sanchez, an assistant professor of political science, said race issues are still relevant.

“A lot of people are talking about the United States as a post-racial society,” Sanchez said. “I think it’s important to recognize there are still very critical issues floating around about the idea of racism that we can’t overlook.”
Student Alejandro Mendiaz said he has felt the effects of racism while trying to get an education. He said El Centro de la Raza, the on-campus center focused on assisting and voicing the concerns of the Latino community on campus, has been crucial in helping him.

“I think that sometimes things are set up a little bit harder in the institutions, especially when I first came to the United States,” Mendiaz said. “I think we all receive racism. No matter who we are, there are always going to be people who don’t accept you.”

Only by voicing these concerns, Jones said, will things become more equitable. She urged students to participate in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

“Ending racism, like achieving health equity, requires valuing all individuals and populations equally, recognizing and rectifying historical injustices and providing resources according to need,” she said.

The ICERD treaty was ratified by United States in 1994. Under the treaty, every six years a report is sent to the United Nations, which compiles data from response and observation, and then gives suggestions to the UN designed to assist the nation in ending racial issues, Jones said.

“Students and the general public can help publicize the existence of the ICERD, the obligations of the United States government under that treaty and the concerns and recommendations of the United Nations in response to our periodic reports,” she said.  “Increased awareness will support the efforts of the United States government to meet its international treaty obligations.”