The racially charged events of the summer have been analyzed one hundred times over at this point in the school year. Students, professors, locals and many others who were involved in the Unite the Right rally and subsequent protests of August 11th and 12th have been asked their opinions on all that occurred, but very few international students have had a chance to weigh in.
As members of a democratic society, UVa students generally uphold the ideals of our forefathers, encouraging debate and open-mindedness. In line with this mentality, WUVA has approached and interviewed four students* native to Spain, Italy, and Sweden in order to understand the violence from their point of view. (*the students will remain nameless to protect their privacy)
When asked specifically how she felt about the racially charged rallies occurring across America, the student of Swedish origin was brutally honest. “I’m used to so much worse. I feel like I shouldn’t say that, but this all seems so small compared to what I know back home. Terrible, of course, but small,” she confessed.
In response to the controversial removal of confederate statues, she hesitated and would not claim to know what’s right. “I don’t know enough about everything else that’s going on, like the police brutality, but I do think that getting rid of the statues is wrong.” She then concluded with a sigh, saying “It’s too hard for me to weigh in on all of this.”
A second student from Madrid, Spain, expressed similar feelings of detachment. However, his hesitance had more to do with his race and less to do with his nationality. He said that, “because I’ve been living in a culturally white society my whole life, I have never really been aware of these issues. I recognize that racism is a problem, but it has never been something I notice or experience.” Even here at UVa he says he does not “feel personally attacked”.
Finally, two students from Milan, Italy were asked to share freely about how safe they feel here on grounds. They were both quick to praise the security of the college, saying “It was a bit scary to know there was a problem right here, but as long as you know where to be or what number to call when that happens, you’re pretty safe.” They each felt confident that they would be able to contact the right people if they ever found themselves in a dangerous situation. They agreed that they could “stay in a dorm or library and feel okay”.
While these are the reactions of only a few international students who are affected by American political and social tensions, WUVA encourages others to reach out and engage in conversation whenever possible and appropriate.
Those of us from the U.S. will benefit if we are receptive to the ways international students perceive our America, open to sharing how we are impacted as citizens, and ready to listen to how our experiences vary. If you have any opinions and experiences that you want to share, please click on the ‘Send in Tips’ tab on our website.