Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rascism and the student body at USM

Two days ago, while I was waiting for the Portland Hall Shuttle bus, I witnessed an interaction on campus that I found to be personally sad and an embarrassment for the student body: A student leader, who I shall not name and is not on the senate, stood in the way of a janitor, who was working that morning.

I have watched this janitor work several times over the past year. Anytime a student is on a rug he is vacuuming or in the way of his mop, he doesn’t scowl or tell that student to move. Rather, he smiles. He says “Good morning, how are you today?” He is friendly. He is polite. This janitor’s attitude towards his job and the students is an example of what the University wishes all its employees could be like.

The student, on the other hand, just stared at the janitor for a second and then proceeded to stare just a bit to the left of the janitor. Didn’t move, and couldn’t be bothered to return a civil greeting. The janitor looked perplexed and then repeated his “good morning.” The student didn’t even glance at him this time. S/he remained staring.

I know this student leader well enough to know that s/he is not visually or hearing impaired. Also, coming from a family where my grandfather worked 80 hours a week to raise four kids on a janitor’s salary, I know how students tend to treat janitors – not just at USM, but at all schools even the Ivies.

Unfortunately, I can’t blame this on being just an antiquated class issue. Racial issues come into play: the janitor was black and the student was white. And while the student didn’t utter any slurs, there is the issue of racism by failing to acknowledge the other person’s humanity.

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