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Response to Lauren Stieritz’s Friday column “Joke for a smoke! Wait, that’s not funny.”

This is a response to Lauren Stieritz’s Friday column “Joke for a smoke! Wait, that’s not funny,” where she — insightfully so — called attention to the fact that racism still does plague our society and reminded people that not only their words, but their prejudices reflect upon our community.

And, while I appreciated her restating the fact that the color of an individual’s skin shouldn’t be a determining factor in their work ethic, intelligence, character or anything else and would agree that she, along with every other person in this country, has a rightful place in this discourse, there is one small line nearing the end of the article that proved to be a considerable problem for me.


It reads as such: “wake the hell up.”

I feel as if I clearly understand the point of her message. However, I do not agree that demanding intolerant people to “wake up” is the way to go about inspiring change, awareness and racial equality.

My main issue is that it suggests, at least in my opinion, that the problem all this time was that people, specifically intolerant and/or privileged people, just needed to open their eyes and all would be clear to them — negative racially charged injustice would no longer exist.

It’s a lot more complicated than that.

In my experience, those who mistreat and misjudge people of other races, inherently believe — whether through a religious, political or socio-economic lens — that the race of which they are discriminatory against is less than the one to which they belong.

I say this knowing that to stop being racist is much more difficult than turning on or off a light switch or simply waking up.

Another issue I have with demanding people to “wake up” is that racism is too profound and deeply rooted in people, culture, government, history and education to demand for an emergence from slumber.

The jokes, ignorant comments, stereotypes and Halloween costumes are only the tip of what I call the “racism iceberg.” Below the water, sewn into our society, is the foundation to racism in this country: History, access to education, government, xenophobia, religion and socioeconomics.

All of the above, I know have played a significant role in the marginalization of our country, shaping the way we approach racism today in our institutions.


Historically speaking, non-white groups, undeniably, haven’t been treated with tolerance and equality.

From the near eradication of the native tribes upon Europe’s arrival to the New World, to using the Bible’s story of Cain and Abel as a justification to kidnap people from Africa and force them into slavery, to concentrating Japanese Americans during World War II, to the annexation of lands from native peoples.

This racism persisted into the 21st century, where still, across the board non-white groups have less access to higher education and technology. Xenophobia and government continually play a role in the oppression and mistreatment of non-white groups, such as the fear that every Latino/Hispanic American is “illegal” and people of Middle Eastern descent are “terrorists.”

To me, demanding a person to “wake up” is excusing the mistreatment of people in this country and wavering the truth that acts of terrorism are more likely to be committed by a white man, white people have better access to technology and a more competitive education. The dominant white group actually gets a larger share of federal assistance and funds than any other racial group in this country.

So, I am refuting that a simple wake-up call is needed to bring attention to how racism has persisted throughout our nation’s history.  At any given time, there have been people preaching for the abolition of one form of mistreatment to another.

So the alarm has been going off, and racism still exists. The alarm has been sounded many times over and people still have hatred in their hearts.

I don’t know how to fix this problem, but I can see how it seems seductive on the surface to tell people to “wake the hell up.” But I don’t think that is strong enough.

Nicole Frazier is a senior English and Spanish major. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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