Dear UT Daily Beacon and fellow readers:

I am writing to express my opinion on the recent events regarding the blackface selfie and how we as students can improve the culture at UT.

Denigrating others because of their race, where they were raised or any other circumstance beyond their control demonstrates a lack of character, thought and judgement. However, many of us (myself included) insidiously and unknowingly contribute to racial and social divides without realizing it. We don’t talk to each other, we don’t listen to each other and we don’t learn from each other; it’s a serious problem.

I want to ask each person reading this: when was the last time you sat down and talked one-on-one with someone (a stranger or a friend) of a different race or political ideology than you? It doesn’t matter if you’re asian, black, latino, white, female, male, rich, poor, greek, or GDI — if you shy away from reaching out and breaching racial and social barriers, you contribute to the problem of self-segregation into racial and social strata.

Maybe we can’t initially jump head first into difficult conversations, but stopping and saying “hi” to each other would be a good place to start. On my walk to class yesterday morning, I estimate over 80% of the people I passed either had their earbuds in, their eyes on their phone, or both. Is reality so unbearable that we must constantly shield ourselves with an endless deluge of data? Does the clientele at any fast food establishment on campus intentionally stare at screens to avoid getting to know fellow UT students in line?

Dr. Davis’s response of allocating more financial resources to the issue of racial division will be in vain if we as students don’t try and reach out to each other (and not talk at one another). If you as a fellow reader are free sometime, I’d like to sit down with you and hear what you think.

Eric Nelius is a graduate student studying nuclear engineering and can be reached at enelius@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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