The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday December 4th

Race Continues to Divide Students

But whether students take advantage of the opportunity is another story.

Fifty years after UNC's integration, these five moments in time shed light on the state of race relations at UNC.

"The Black Experience"

Students spread themselves out as they arrive at their "Black Experience" class in Gardner Hall.

Eleven are black, 28 are white and four are of other ethnicities. Only a few sit in pairs.

Most have a seat or more between them, and silence prevails while several read newspapers.

In the back row sit two friends of different races, conversing about an upcoming exam.

Brianna Santeramo, a junior from Garner, and Robert Harris, a sophomore from Raleigh, help break both the silence and the seating arrangement.

Santeramo said she enjoys interacting with different races.

"I'm not closed-minded at all; it's nice to get different perspectives," she said.

When Professor Reginald Hildebrand arrives, the conversation ends, the newspapers disappear and all the students seem to share an interest in his lecture topic -- race relations during slavery.

"Both my black and white students share a seriousness for this project," Hildebrand said. "It is different from the 1980s when classes were quite polarized on this sensitive and explosive material."

Despite underlying commonalities, Santeramo said students in the AFAM 40 class do not socialize because most of them do not know each other.

"This campus is so diverse, but many of the different groups stick together," Santeramo said. "I feel that people want to keep up boundaries, and race relations are getting worse instead of better."

Human Nature and Hot Sauce

During a crowded lunch hour in Lenoir Dining Hall, many students of different ethnicities dine at the same table.

But more frequently students choose to sit with their own race. Even though they are eating the same food and hold similar conversations, some students continue to segregate themselves.

Two neighboring tables in the middle of the dining area both have salads, chicken, iced-tea and even hot sauce, among other things.

But the tables differ in the race of their occupants. One table seats three computer science majors. All are black males. At the table beside them sit four white freshmen who attended the same high school.

Brian Foxx, from the first table, said no student or campus organization can change the tendency for races to segregate. "It's just human nature that we tend to stay with our own kind," Foxx said. "But just because I'm sitting here doesn't mean I respect (white) people any less."

Among the students at the other table is Braxton West, who said he lacked exposure to different races. "I went to a majority white high school, and all my friends are white," he said. "But (self-segregation) doesn't seem detrimental."

Besides hot sauce, both groups agree on one thing: People form relationships with others who share interests. To them, race is secondary.

Hoop Dreams

Rubber squeaks and the smell of sweat permeate the Woollen Gym basketball courts on a Saturday afternoon. Eight pickup games go on simultaneously as players push to squeeze in one last matchup before closing time.

The racial makeup of the games is constantly changing. On one court a team of Asian students plays a team of white students. On another, a team of black and white students play. Right beside them two all black teams fight for the ball. "Today, when we first came in, this court had a nice racial mix," said senior Jevon Walton. "Right now, it's very segregated. It just depends."

Walton said the integration of the courts depends on the stereotypes of the players. "Sometimes blacks and whites don't want to play together," he said. "Carolina's kind of funny when it comes to that. Say you have (the court) next after somebody's game, and they'll pick up and leave. When white guys try to say they got next, black guys try to take advantage of them cause they don't believe they can play."

But to most of the players on these courts your skills mean more than the color of your skin. "You got every different race coming in here to play basketball," said sophomore Cory Rawlinson. "Race doesn't even matter."

Minorities Only?

At any given moment during the day, students can be found lingering around one of UNC's most prevalent resources for minorities -- the Sonja H. Stone Black Cultural Center.

On one Friday, a few students mingle in the BCC, located within the Student Union -- some working the desk, some reading, others just poking their heads in the door to say hello.

At the BCC desk Kameishia Wooten, a junior African-American studies major is talking about the lack of black history taught in today's schools.

Meanwhile, freshman Jason Mageo comments on how he is the only Pacific Islander he's met at UNC. But Mageo, who is leaning over the back of a couch, adds that he likes the BCC's atmosphere.

"I like the people at the BCC," he said. "They are very open-minded and will talk about anything race-wise."

All the students milling about are minorities. All are black except Mageo.

Both Wooten and Mageo agree the lack of diversity in the BCC is based on a false impression that it is only for minorities on campus.

With the groundbreaking on the free-standing BCC scheduled for April, the center will continue to fight this belief. Wooten said, "Most Carolina students don't know what the BCC is about."

Stepping Up Race Relations

Nine sisters of Alpha Epsilon Omega, a multicultural Christian sorority, meet on a Saturday afternoon in the basement of Cobb Residence Hall hoping to dissolve some of the separation between the two dominant races in the Greek world.

The contrast between black and white Greek traditions is as sharp as night and day. The sisters gather in a circle, a white hand grasping a black one as they bow their heads and begin to pray. "Heavenly Father, thank you for this time together to fellowship and the opportunity to minister through step," says sophomore Kadia Kaloko.

The sisters conclude their prayer and move to opposite sides of the room to practice their step routine.

The heavy bass from the stereo vibrates through the room, accompanying the rhythmic stomps of feet.

The sisters see their step ministry as a way of taking the art of stepping to people that might not have been exposed to the art form.

"I'd like to see more white people step," said junior Francemise St. Pierre. "It really does break the stereotype that white people can't dance."

St. Pierre added that she believes race relations at UNC go beyond the black-white issue and involve all nationalities.

St. Pierre said she and her sisters, along with other UNC students, are slowly taking steps to bridge the racial divide. She said, "With a willing spirit and patience, anything is possible."

The Features Editor can be reached at features@unc.edu.

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