Carson VanBuskirk | @carsonvanbDE
A group of approximately 25 students, faculty and staff gathered in the Student Services building to hold a roundtable discussion about diversity at SIU and within the community.
The discussion was organized by Lanel Love, coordinator of the Black Resource Center and Todd Bryson, interim associate chancellor for diversity. The programing was part of SIU’s Black History month programming.
The discussion featured three panelists, Dr. Joseph Brown, professor of Africana studies; Carolin Harvey, a retired SIU faculty member who worked at the University for over 38 years and Seyi Amosu, a Celia M. Howard Fellow at the university working towards her Doctorates in psychology.
During the discussion, panelists and students discussed harmful stereotypes and what the term “black experience” means.
Harvey said there is not one specific definition of black experience.
“Some things society wants us to think that that’s us; it’s not, it’s not me,” Harvey said. “I get very disheartened when I think that this show, this movie, whatever that is what people see all over the world and think of black people, that’s not the real true story.”’
One student at the event said society takes issue with those who do not fit into this black experience stereotype, and he sees this happening at SIU, in Carbondale, and in the world today.
“I see it all the time,” the student said. “If you don’t assimilate to who [they] think you [need] to be, then we have an issue, because the moment you start walking into your identity and being confident in who you are, there is some intimidation.”
Brown responded to the student and said society’s dictionary is owned by white, upper class males who control the definition of terms and stereotypes.
“We spend our days, everyone in this room, pushing back against those definitions,” Brown said. “It is a structural, and systematic, and institutional, societal issue.”
Brown said discrimination still exists at SIU and diversity is a word he refuses to privilege because it is an excuse not to do the hard work of humility.
One student talked about an incident where they were called a “monkey” by another student and their story was not unique within the room.
“If you have an almost all white power structure, you do not have diversity,” Brown said. “You sure as hell don’t have integration. So what are we doing to educate ourselves so we can be more humble and asking questions, and sincere in accepting the answers, and then going to school.”
A student at the discussion asked the room where those in privilege and in power were at SIU, and why they were not at the event.
“At events such as this, where are they?” the student said. “If they were willing to come and to learn, they would be here.”
Harvey said no matter who you are or where you are, you can’t be afraid to ask “Why is it like this?”
“SIU has won awards for their diversity plan because we have an excellent plan on paper,” Harvey said. “This room has more people of color in it than any other room on this campus right now.”
This event took place during Black History month, but the faculty and students who took part in the discussion wanted to know, what happens after Black History month?
“This panel is in the month of February; what happens those other months?” Harvey said. “Do we not want to learn about what actually happens in Black History those other 11 months?”
Harvey said this applies to other marginalized groups as well, and people should consider what happens to other people of color during the months outside of the one designated to them.
“We have to realize that hey, God put us all here, and we’ve all got to get along with each other,” Harvey said. “We can do it the right way or we can do it the wrong way, but we are all here together.”
Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieC45439038.
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