By Maria Archibald, Sustainability Office
Dr. Stacy Harwood came to racial justice work in 2006, when a fraternity and sorority at the University of Illinois—where she worked at the time—hosted a racially themed party called “Tacos and Tequila.” Harwood joined other faculty and students to protest this party as well as a broader tradition of racism on campus, and their initiative soon “took on a life of its own.”
Harwood, who is now chairperson and professor in the City & Metropolitan Planning Department at the University of Utah, will give a GCSC seminar at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14 called “Every Day Racism in Integrated Spaces.”
Harwood’s talk will center a recent research paper of the same title, which explores the geography of racism on university campuses and examines how subtle racism influences students of color. “What is it like to walk across campus? How does it feed your choice to go somewhere or not go somewhere? And how does that limit your opportunity to access resources?” she asks.
Harwood’s research looks at three different environments on college campuses: white spaces, where students of color often feel unwelcomed and out of place; welcoming spaces, like cultural centers, where students of color feel they can be themselves and where they don’t need to explain their existence; and a third environment, where students feel included, but only conditionally. “This is often where the subtlety of racism happens,” Harwood says.
Harwood hopes her talk will generate conversation about the subtle racism that happens on our own campus at the U and that it will be useful for white people to better understand how racism can be unintentional. She also hopes it will bring racial justice to the forefront of sustainability discussions, which she argues should engage more deeply with social issues.
“We tend to lean on the environmental stuff a lot more when we talk about sustainability,” Harwood says. “But racism is not something that’s a sustainable practice. It impacts people’s health, access to resources, and ability to thrive.”
Join Harwood on Zoom at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14 to learn more about every day racism in integrated spaces and what our campus community can do to address it.