Students at Concordia University in River Forest recently chimed in on the racial tensions connected to the student campus protests and the refugee crisis related to Syria’s ongoing civil war. 

The two seemingly disparate issues have one thing in common, explained Sarah Kando. It all comes down to empathy, or the lack thereof. 

“If something’s a problem for someone, you need to take it seriously,” said Kando, 21. “What if, one day, you have a problem with something and no one is taking you seriously?” 

Kando, a junior English major, was among the students at Concordia who noted that, although they can’t find the time for campus activism, still admire the students who are demonstrating in places like the University of Missouri and Dominican University. 

“I think the problems those students are talking about are serious and they aren’t being acknowledged as they should be,” said Jerry Molina, 19, a Hispanic sophomore accounting major. 

“I think it’s sad that racism is still an issue,” said Cameron Maxwell, a 19-year-old accounting major who is white. “I totally understand why they’re upset. I would be, too. It’s been hundreds of years.” 

Kando, Maxwell and Molina all said that they weren’t aware of any demonstrations, similar to those at Dominican, happening at Concordia. But that doesn’t mean they’re inoculated from the realities underlying those protests.  

Kando’s parents are Syrian immigrants. She said she experienced firsthand some of the incidents that have aggrieved so many black students across the country. 

“When I was younger, I went to middle and high schools that were predominantly white and I heard things that were definitely culturally insensitive and blatantly racist,” she said.

“A lot of times people don’t know I’m not Caucasian. I think they just assume I am and leave me alone,” she said.

She doesn’t enjoy the same distance, however, when it’s come to the national discussion around the recent crisis in Syria. After last week’s Paris attacks, more than half of U.S. governors, including Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, have announced that they will stop accepting refugees. 

“My parents are immigrants,” said Kando. “A lot of times, these people are escaping war-torn countries, not because they want to do anything bad. Most of the time, they’re more than thankful due to the fact that these countries are opening their doors to give them a better life.”

They are people like Kando’s grandfather, an immigrant who came to America from Iraq. 

“My grandpa, when he was being interviewed to come here, was asked if he’d be willing to join the army to fight with America if it went to war with his home country of Iraq. 

“He said, ‘Not only would I be willing to join the army, but so would my sons. Why wouldn’t we want to fight for a place that gave us a better chance for freedom and peace?'”

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com 

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