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Practice what you preach

That should be the lesson that we take away from the heightened discussion of racism on our campus.
The Daily Mississippian, student leaders, and faculty and staff have all published or made outward statements to address the issue of race at the University of Mississippi. It has certainly been a topic of conversation in the past months coupled with the 50 years of integration, ESPN’s “30 for 30: Ghosts of Ole Miss,” and the recent issues erupting after the presidential election. The question is, what happens now?
As we move forward, we need to make sure that our actions match our words. As the dialogue dies down, we need to actually make changes in our lives and our relationships to reflect the ideas of racial unity that we have so fervently expressed.
Growing up in the Deep South, I know that racism is alive and well but swept under the rug around certain company. We, as Southerners, know that racism is wrong. However, we still hear our friends make racial slurs and rarely correct them. The vast majority of our friends are of our same race. If there is someone of a different race in a group of friends, they are often labeled “the black friend” or “the white friend.” That labeling, highlights that we still have a lot of ground to cover.
One of my friends just this morning told me a story from his undergrad at Ole Miss where a sorority girl wanted to take him to formal “just to see people’s reactions.” Not only is it wrong that there would be an adverse reaction to someone of a different race showing up at a date party, it is wrong to think it’s funny to ask someone out because they fit your label of being your minority friend.
To say we look past the color of skin, would be a bold lie. Now is the time to address it.
We all must make a deliberate, conscious effort to stop racism. We must challenge ourselves to step out of our comfort zone and expand our circle of friends to include more than just people who look like us. We must challenge our peers when they speak ill of another race. Stand up for what you know is wrong.
Remove all labels from your speech. That isn’t your “black friend,” that is simply your friend. We need to stop making snide remarks when we see a race different than ours in the news for whatever positive or negative reason.
It is our duty to make sure that the next generation, our children, enter a new South that is not divided on race.
An open minded South is obtainable, but it won’t happen without us doing the leg work.

Anna Rush is a second-year law student from Hattiesburg. She graduated from Mississippi State University in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @annakrush.