Panel on stereotypes looks for solutions

A student panel on race and ethnicity issues and their effect on student interaction urged GW students to take more initiative to increase cross-cultural activities and cooperation.

The panel – entitled “Race and Ethnicity: Does it Matter?” – discussed issues such as a lack of student attendance at events sponsored by campus multicultural groups.

Angela Snyder, assistant director of Programs and Activities at the International Student Organization, said Tuesday’s panel provided an opportunity for students to voice opinions about relationships between multicultural student groups and the student body in general.

“The purpose of the discussion is to provide a forum for race and ethnicity,” she said.

The three panelists talked about racial and ethnic problems they encountered or have seen in their own lives, then asked audience members to contribute ideas on how to solve the problem of ethnic divisions at GW and elsewhere.

Hala Durrah, a panelist and member of the Muslim Students Association, expressed dissatisfaction with the characterization of Muslims and Arabs as terrorists. She said the media and film industry have given their audiences an inaccurate picture of Muslim people.

“In my opinion, Arabs and Muslims have been the target of certain racial slurs because of the situation in the Middle East,” Durrah said.

Durrah said she believes The Siege, a movie about terrorism, unfairly depicts all Arabs as terrorists. She said the effect of mass media stereotypes such as those in The Siege create hostility and tension between cultures, especially among uneducated people.

The key to breaking these racial and ethnic stereotypes is eliminating ignorance and increasing exposure to other cultures, Durrah said.

“It’s unfortunate to me because that is not who I am,” she said.

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