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Sunday, July 12, 2020

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#RemoveRohini controversy brings better understanding of Black Lives Matter


Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 11.27.26 AM

The Black Student Caucus rejected Sethi’s clarification of her much-debated comment made on July 7. | Frank Campos/The Cougar

Beginning with the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, three women founded Black Lives Matter. The movement that began as a hashtag has taken the nation by storm.

From this storm, however, came #AllLivesMatter — an equally popular countermovement that undermines what Black Lives Matter has been doing.

When Rohini Sethi made the controversial Facebook post, it revealed her ignorance of Black Lives Matter’s true purpose. It isn’t a movement as a means to divide African-Americans from the rest of society.

University of Houston’s students became concerned and rallied behind a new movement, #RemoveRohini, in the wake of the controversy.

In an open letter, Myles Parnell, the Student Program Board’s vice president of membership, explained to Sethi that the movement is not “#OnlyBlackLivesMatter” but rather “#BlackLivesMatterToo.”

“I want to make sure that people know this letter is not a call for yet another vicious and malicious attack on Rohini, to divide the student body, or to support the ‪#‎RemoveRohini hashtag,” Parnell said. “It is a plea to help you understand. Today you issued a statement, not an apology, where you attempted to clarify what you said which you ended with the hashtag “‪#‎LetsTalkUnity. And I am definitely down to talk unity, but first I need to explain to you why I and the rest of the black community at UH will not overlook this transgression and simply move forward.”

Parnell’s response effectively highlights Black Lives Matter’s intentions rather than criticizing Sethi. Most have chosen the latter. Rather than solving the issue, it creates a muddied response to Sethi’s mistake.

In response, SGA released a statement emphasizing their commitment to diversity and unity. They also arranged a town hall meeting where students can voice their thoughts about the racial tension on campus.

SGA originally scheduled the event for last week, but then moved it to next Tuesday.

The most desirable outcome is not the removal of a SGA staff member whose well-intentioned comment is an unfortunate dismissal of an entire race’s struggles. We should instead use this opportunity to raise awareness of Black Lives Matter and bring together everyone in the second-most diverse school in the nation.

Sethi’s response to the debacle undermines, in many ways, the trust of the student government to support its minorities. We need to take necessary steps to ensure our student body and future students see UH as an inclusive institution.

Sethi’s post also showed how uninformed our society is about the purpose of Black Lives Matter. We, as a school, should spearhead the movement to bring forth its origins, goals and ultimate purpose.

Columnist Praneeth Kambhampati is a biomedical sciences freshman and can be reached at [email protected]

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