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Profile of Ohio University Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS)


Profile of Ohio University Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS)
© 2011 Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS), Ohio University. Used with permission.

Name of Club or Organization:

Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS)

College or University:

Ohio University (Athens, OH)



As noted on their website, "The purpose of STARS is to educate and facilitate discussion about all ism’s (racism, sexism, classism, etc.), raise awareness about social justice, and promote racial harmony. Our job is to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings. Our guiding principle is based on the African principle 'Each One Teach One'."


Founded in 1988 as a class by Dr. Sheila Williams, Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) continues to teach about societal racism in new and important ways. "In an effort to make STARS more effective in raising awareness and combating the 'isms,'" the organization also utilizes "theme quarters." Faculty speakers come each quarter to discuss the current theme and its implications both for STARS and larger society.

In the fall of 2011, STARS received both national and international media attention for its "We're a culture, not a costume" campaign. Focused on the tendency of people to use cultural dress, stereotypes, and offensive imagery for Halloween, the campaign directly confronted the racism present in many Halloween costumes. Posters were made showing students of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds holding up a picture of a "costume" that portrayed their culture and/or heritage in a common but offensive manner. Each poster also featured the phrase "This is not who I am, and this is not okay."

Outlets such as CNN ("'We're a culture, not a costume' this Halloween"), the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/CBC ("Should Cross-Racial Costumes Be Off-Limits?"), and ColorLines ("Ohio University to Classmates: We're a Culture, Not a Costume") all picked up the story. While media coverage ranged from positive support to questions about whether political correctness had gone too far, the campaign nonetheless started a dialogue about the issue of cultural dress as costume -- helping to further the organization's mission to "educate and facilitate discussion about all ism's."

While STARS does not sell the posters, they are receiving donations for those wanting to use them. Contact the organization for high-resolution copies and details about where donations can be sent.

Can I Replicate This Group on My Campus?:

Yes, this group can easily be replicated on another campus. The organization also works strongly with faculty and has faculty speakers each semester. While STARS is mostly student led, working in collaboration with faculty allies also seems to be one of its strengths.

Contact Information:

The organization can be reached at ohioustars@gmail.com.
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