Community leaders work to combat institutional racism

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – As people in states across the nation debate over racial injustice, one group here in East Lansing is working to change the conversation by combating it.

More than one hundred people from teachers, to medical professionals, to students joined together in East Lansing today to learn more about how institutional racism impacts our society and what can be done to combat it.

Race and privilege. It’s a topic discussed in schools, the workplace, and just everyday life, which is why a group of educators here in the capital area are working to make sure everyone stays informed about it.

“When we serve people, when we serve students, when we serve others, I think the important part of it is to provide growth,” said Alfonso Salais, a Spanish teacher at Lansing Eastern High School.

Salais says he uses his classroom as a platform to teach kids more than just the Spanish language, but also diversity and acceptance.

“I think it’s important to have an open mind and to accept, like I mentioned, to embrace and to understand,” said Salais.

Salais says it’s important that teachers like himself understand institutional racism, which is why he decided to speak at “The Power of You: Impacting Social Justice” conference today, to help others understand the four different levels of racism: personal, interpersonal, structural, and institutional.

“Those are the type of levels that you want to be able to understand, so that way you can dismantle the barriers and the walls of racism,” said Salais.

Alfonso’s daughter, Gabriela Salais, is a senior at Eastern High School. She says today’s conference inspired her to start a social justice club.

“They’re important to create awareness for communities such as mine and to create more awareness for those who want to be allies,” said Gabriela Salais.

She says she wants to make sure others are educated about a topic that’s so important to her.

“It’s not only for students, it’s for the community,” said Gabriela Salais.

Like his daughter, Alfonso says he wants to help others understand how to make a more inclusive environment in and outside of the classroom.

“My number one goal is to create awareness, to create understanding, to continue to be ambassadors of change, and ambassadors to embrace diversity,” said Salais.

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