Let’s Talk About African-American Oppression
The Diversity Conversation took place on Thursday, Nov. 3 in Bailey Auditorium, and addressed the dynamic of African-Americans in the United States.
The event was put on by Scott Rosenberg, professor and African and Diaspora Studies director, and Mecca Abdul-Aziz, Wittenberg junior. About 80 Wittenberg students, predominately African-American and Caucasian, showed up to address the issue of what is going on with African-Americans both in today’s society and at the school. The meeting was opened by Rosenberg. He handed out notecards to everyone so they could write a question or comment about race, and turn them back into him to be read and talked about amongst everyone in the room.
“I think your generation thinks it has the problem solved because you don’t talk about it a lot,” Rosenberg said. “I don’t think you can fix a problem until you actually talk about it.”
There were five people on a panel which included Chief of Springfield Police Stephen Moody, Associate Dean of Students John Young, former Concerned Black Students president and 2013 Wittenberg graduate Moses Mbeseha, attorney for Wright & Schulte LLC and The Cochran Firm-Ohio Robert Gresham and Area Coordinator of Firestine and Meyers halls Rayshaun Isreal. They led conversation as well as gave input between student comments and questions.
“We don’t need a million black people marching down the street saying this needs to change. When we have a million white people marching down the street asking for change, that is when things will change,” Mbeseha said.
The talk, sponsored by Concerned Black Students, started out with the importance of communication between races and how simply talking about white privilege compared to African-American oppression can contribute to fixing the problem.
African-Americans in the room highly encouraged Caucasians to talk to them so views can be shared. It was stressed that nothing will change if people remain silent.
There was a lot of audience interaction, making for a successful conversation which touched on various topics related to African-American oppression. Police brutality, how society perceives there is a difference between “light skins” and “dark skins,” racism versus prejudice and what the students can do to bring about change were among those topics.
One student made a comment that we are all the same on the inside with the same bones and muscle tissue, and the only difference is the “outer wrapping,” which constitutes for equal treatment.
“This was really important to me to have on Witt’s campus because it’s something we don’t talk about a lot,” Abdul-Aziz said. “It’s important for us to understand and know that black oppression is a problem even at Wittenberg. We go around on campus and act like everything’s peachy, but there are still negative comments made about black people.”
Rosenberg and Abdul-Aziz hoped that the conversation would spark an alteration in the way African-Americans and Caucasians communicate at Wittenberg. They insist that students can make a change in the world if the problem is addressed and collaborated on, instead of shying away from the subject.
“The conversation doesn’t end here,” Rosenberg said. “Hopefully the conversation doesn’t end tonight.”