When a group of college students started a campaign to fight racism on campus, it didn't take long for professors to join in the cause.
The Irate 8 are students at the University of Cincinnati who are starting a revolution to make their school more "inclusive, diverse, and racially aware space." Students of color report not feeling completely welcomed on their campus, due to things like buildings named after outspoken racists, racially-intolerant demonstrations, and university police violence against black students and citizens.
Shortly after the release of The Irate 8's emotionally-charged video on September 10, Dr. Stephanie Sadre-Orafai, an Anthropology professor at UC, jumped into action. Noting that other departments had shown support to the students, the Anthropology department was eager to join in.
"We felt it was not just important, but urgent to do the same. We chose to do individual portraits to make it more personal and have a greater visual impact on social media," Sadre-Orafai told A Plus in an email, "Our main goal was to support the students and to so in a way that drew on our expertise as anthropologists."
A number of professors held up signs, acknowledging the fact that racism exists, even though, scientifically, race does not.
For those who have never taken an Anthropology course, the fact that race doesn't physically exist can be a struggle to comprehend. Clearly, people on Earth don't all look the same, and there are physical differences that could be used to identify ethnic heritage. However, it isn't as simple as it appears.
"[D]espite all of the wonderful physical and genetic variation that exists across the human species, there's no reliable way to place humans into discrete groups based on that variation," Dr. Heather Norton of UC told A Plus. While the differences may be obvious, the boundaries are not.
"Further—how do we decide what traits are important to use in these classification schemes? Why skin color and not blood group? Or lactase persistence? Or the length of the big toe? You could try to develop classification schemes using all sorts of traits that are clearly biological in basis, but the groups that you identify and the individuals that you place in those groups might be very different from one classification scheme to the next," Norton continued.
Since launching the photo series, there has been great feedback from students and faculty within the Department of Anthropology, The Irate 8, and from the general public.
But their support to end racism doesn't end there.
"We're planning a day of teach-ins with colleagues, students, staff, and community members for later in the semester and are developing a syllabus in the style of the Sociologists for Justice's "Ferguson Syllabus" to take the message beyond our classrooms," Sadre-Orafai's email to A Plus continued. "The syllabus will be available next week for Sam Dubose Week, which is organized by the United Black Student Association and The Irate 8."
Ultimately, it is hoped that this continued outreach and education can bring real change to UC's campus.
[H/T: Bioanthropology News]