RISE Chat panel talks college race issues

Zoë Donovan, Staff Reporter

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Eastern students learned about race issues from several different perspectives Monday night, courtesy of six panelists at the event.

Outside of the Buzzard auditorium, a mix of students, faculty and community members mingled over pizza and soda, provided by Eastern President David Glassman’s office, before showing a short clip of the 1994 documentary, “The Color of Fear” and a panel discussion.

The clip shown from the documentary showed eight men of different ethnicities in a circle as one of the men discussed his experience as a black man and the way that society wanted him to shed his identity.

Sace Elder, chair of the history department, asked the panel questions and selected audience members to ask their own once the panel had the conversation started.

Jim Howley, director of the bachelors in general studies program, started the panel discussions by reviewing terms, definitions and some of the history behind the way the way the world has classified race over time.

“Race is truly an externally imposed category,” Howley said. He explained it is something imposed onto minority groups by a majority or dominant group.

Morgan Howard, a junior public relations major and one of the student panelists for the event, spoke about her experiences in both inner city and suburban high schools and the differences in the education and community.

She also spoke about her experience as a transfer student from a historically black college and the differences in the opportunities for black students to get involved on Eastern’s campus as opposed to her previous institution.

Another student panelist, Samira Abdoulaye Pedila, a senior psychology major, spoke about her experience as an immigrant who came to the United States as a young child and her mother’s desire for her children to present and grow up “American”.

“America does a good job of advertising the American Dream,” Abdoulaye Pedila said.

She shared her mother’s first experience with racism at her mother’s first job in the United States; her mother cut her hand on a piece of equipment and her white manager was shocked that her blood was also red.

“Growing up my mom at home shared our culture, but she would always tell us that it was something that didn’t leave the house,” Abdoulaye Pedila said.

Other topics of discussion included the controversial actions of Rachel Doleza, a white woman who claimed African-American heritage, and how students can deal with and face issues like far-right speakers and hate groups on campus.

Other panelists included Sami Boomgarden, graduate student panelist in Eastern’s clinical psychology program, Carole Collins Ayanlaja, an assistant professor of educational leadership and Navid Farnia, an instructor in the history department.

The event was led by Catherine Polydore, an associate professor of educational psychology and the MEI chair at Eastern.

Zoë Donovan can be reached at 581–2812 or at [email protected].