UCF holds Social Justice Week to encourage open dialogue on societal issues

Photo by Shayla Phillips. Dr. William A. Smith presented to students Monday night at #Triggered: Racial Battle Fatigue. His presentation was about micro-aggressions and Racial Battle Fatigue.

This past week was Social Justice Week at UCF, and during the week, several events were hosted in the Student Union by the Multicultural Student Center.

On Monday night, UCF students were given an opportunity to come out to #Triggered: Racial Battle Fatigue, a discussion of “the physiological impact racism and [micro-aggressions] play on various minority groups,” according to Social Justice Advocacy that hosted the event in the Student Union.

With students seated around a table, a dialogue of students’ experiences when dealing with Racial Battle Fatigue – a term coined by Dr. William A. Smith – ensued. Smith is known for his work focusing on the theory of Racial Battle Fatigue which is “the cumulative emotional, psychological, physiological and behavioral effect that racial micro-aggressions have on people of color.”

After the discussion, Smith followed up with a presentation on racial micro-aggressions and how “if you have experienced racial micro-aggressions, then you have experienced Racial Battle Fatigue.” Throughout the presentation, he covered examples of racial micro-aggressions.

He asked students if they ever had someone ask the question “why can’t they be like you?” The crowd responded in the affirmative with confident head nods. Smith went on to compare micro-aggressions to Muhammad Ali’s punch to an opponent stating “the body holds racism as a psychical attack,” with the “psychical attack” being the reason this event took place to begin with, to aid students with dealing with Racial Battle Fatigue.

“Almost all social change comes from students, and they are the ones to move [the universities] forward,” Smith said proclaiming the importance of owning experiences and sharing them. “When students start speaking up, we see how much trouble these schools are in.”

Some students agreed with the importance of sharing their experiences.

“Events like these help people to learn, and by people learning, it gives them more obligation to stand up for themselves,” said Dre’Quan Lumpkin, 19, a sophomore chemistry analysis major.

The discussion sparked some motivation in UCF students to go out and be the change they wish to see, by learning what micro-aggressions are and how to deal with Racial Battle Fatigue in the midst of them.

“After this I already want to go out and protest,” said Josh Watson, 20, a junior emerging media and digital art major.

In the days following #Triggered: Racial Battle Fatigue, the Multicultural Student Center kept the message of “silence is not an option” alive by hosting #TheRealSelfie on Wednesday, in the Student Union Atrium. It gave students and faculty the opportunity to “rip off the label,” said Edwanna Andrews who oversaw the many events taking place over the week.

Students and faculty were engaged by the photo booth assembled next to signs that read “Rip the labels off!!!” and “Free yourself from the labels.”

Students and faculty alike were encouraged to label themselves with their truth instead of what society has labeled them as. #TheRealSelfie was meant to break down stereotypical norms that they thought the media has put on to people.

“The event is trying to help people say ‘labels do not define me,’” said Ariel Olson, 19, a freshman psychology major. “You write what you most identify with and not as what others label you as.”

Another student agreed.

“I think an event like this existing and being present gives students a chance to express themselves,” said Peter Yanez, 19, a sophomore public administration major. “It shows [UCF] is here for us and that we are supported.”