AWARA grapples with little interest

White students make up about 85 percent of the UVM population, according to the Princeton Reviews website. Aspiring White Anti-Racist Allies (AWARA) hopes to provide some insight into that statistic.

AWARA is a group dedicated to raising awareness about racism, specifically around issues of whiteness and white privilege. They hope to provide a space for students to talk about these issues. Their first meeting was Oct. 17 at the ALANA Student Center on campus.

We all feel really passionate about it, said Chris Nile, a graduate student and adviser to AWARA. Its exciting that we can really take it anywhere that the group wants to take it.

Senior Ally Croteau, president of AWARA, became involved with the group last year after attending NextUp, a social justice retreat for students hosted by the departments of Student Life Leadership and Civic Engagement.

I think were just slowly trying to bring awareness to whiteness, white privilege, white culture and how to be an ally to people of color, she said.

The group is indeed slow going: there were no participants at the initial interest meeting Oct. 17.

I would consider us a struggling group, to be honest, said Macki Snyder, an intern at the ALANA Student Center and one of two advisers to AWARA.

Croteau agreed, noting that many of last years AWARA members have graduated.

Were kind of in a new growth period, she said.

In the past, the group has been involved with events such as Reading to End Racism, a project where students go into Burlington area schools to read books that discuss racism.

Currently, AWARA is working on building its membership. Though they are affiliated with the ALANA Student Center, they have not been able to gain SGA recognition because of their lack of participants.

Croteau also said that white students might be less inclined to participate in an anti-racism group because they do not have to face the realities of racism on a daily basis like students of color do.

Its not a big turnout because people dont need to be aware of themselves, she said.

Croteau and Snyder both maintained that while AWARA is a group that intends to discuss issues of whiteness, it is not intended for only white students.

Race and racism affect us all, and white privilege affects us all, Snyder said.