Civil Rights Immersion provides insight into racism

By The Beacon | September 19, 2013 1:08am

By Tadeu Velloso |

Going into my sophomore year of college, I was under the assumption that I lived in a land of equality. I had studied the Civil Rights movement briefly in school and somehow had come to the conclusion that I lived in a post-racial world where the only people that didn’t succeed were the people that didn’t work hard enough. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and lived in Portland; I had never seen racism for myself.  I wanted to explore this idea of race and racism so I applied to go on the Civil Rights Immersion through the Moreau Center because I knew that they went to Alabama and Louisiana and I wanted to finally see first-hand the racism I knew existed in our society.  I did see racism while on the trip, but it wasn’t individual acts of racism. I saw, or allowed myself to see, systemic racism for the first time.  I saw injustices that had been present my whole life.

After the trip I was confronted with the reality that I was not living in the society I thought I was living in. One of the hardest parts about going on a trip like that is trying to grapple with what my next move should be, and I grappled hard. I tried to talk to my friends about it, but within the confines of privilege it was hard to explain to them that there was more racism present in our own country than they, or even I, knew. Racism and Jim Crow never died; they just got a new face. Redlining, lack of funding to low-income public schools, mass incarceration and the “war on drugs” were all examples of how I was not living in the post-racial world I thought I was living in. I was beginning to question the world around me.  Unfortunately, race, class, gender, sexuality, religion and ethnicity still matter. As much as we would hope they wouldn’t, they do.

This year, my friend Emma Masi and I get the great experience of leading a group of UP students to Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana to talk about these issues in the context of the historical Civil Rights Movement, but also in the context of our modern lives. If you want to discuss these issues and learn with us then you should apply for the Civil Rights Immersion, which will be taking place in May 2014.

Applications are due tomorrow Sept. 20 and the application can be found on