According to findings from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, White students are increasingly using the “n-word” in schools as a derogatory term against Black students. This example is one of a number of other racist activities currently trending throughout the state, including the resurgence of White supremacist groups.

“Supremacist groups are on the increase. I investigate bias related incidents; those are on the increase,” said Robert Flipping Jr., supervisor of the PA Human Relations Commission’s Pittsburgh regional office. “The use of the n-word in schools, that’s on the increase. We’ve also found that our kids are receiving unequal disciplinary action.”

STAND AGAINST RACISM—More than 250,000 participated in similar YWCA events around the country in 2011. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

For many, these trends are unsurprising in light of recent race related incidents like the killing of Trayvon Martin. At the YWCA Stand Against Racism Rally at the Community College of Allegheny County campus on April 27, Flipping and other speakers shed light on these and other issues of racism still facing American society.

“The Community College of Allegheny County has arguably the most diverse population of any area college, so it’s a distinct pleasure to partner with the YWCA,” said Rick Adams, executive director of community relations and outreach at CCAC. “We’ve come a long way. Having an African-American in the White House is an accomplishment. Ten or 15 years ago, that was unimaginable, but we still have incidents like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Miles here in Pittsburgh.”

The FBI was also on hand to provide information on their Civil Rights program addressing hate crimes, human trafficking, and “Color of Law” cases, which involve discriminatory acts by law enforcement officers. They also had information on the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which protects those seeking reproductive health services.

“In collaboration with this theme of standing against racism we must be mindful and work to change the myths that are associated with race and not let that be a determining factor of social, economic, or political opportunities,” said Danielle Hamner, a board of directors member of New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice. “We must realize that we all have the power and abilities to speak for racial equalities for all and aspire to become change agents for inequality.”

At heart of many of the speakers’ testimonials was a call for action by institutions such as the government and law enforcement. However, some also raised the question of what individuals can do in their own lives to combat racism.

“Number one, I’m a man. I also use a wheel chair for mobility; I’m disabled. And I’m African-Americans. My goal is to break down the stereotypes of each one of those,” said Chaz Kellem, manager of diversity initiatives for the Pittsburgh Pirates. “In my opinion, the best way to stand against racism is to look at ourselves. Everything we’ve talked about is how to change other people, but we have to start with ourselves. Do not judge other people based on perception.”

The event was part of a nationwide initiative in support of the YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism. Similar events were held around the country.

“Standing against racism is part of the YWCA’s focus area and we have been doing this for a long time, but my question to you is what will you do to stop racism,” said Dina Clark, director at YWCA’s Center for Race and Gender Equity. “This just can’t end with a conversation; it has to end with action.”

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