Social justice panel takes a look at racial prejudices

Amber Brockman, Writer

The social justice panel, Navigating the Inequalities: Racism and Social Justice in the 21st Century, opened up a discussion with current UW Oshkosh African-American students to discuss the question, ‘Are racial prejudices still affecting lives?’

The event took place on Feb. 21 in Sage Hall and was just one of the many events put on by the Black Student Union in celebration of Black History Month.

Director of Student Achievement Services and co-adviser of the Black Student Union Byron Adams said this event honors the history and ongoing experience of African-Americans.
“This is a way to commemorate Black History Month and reflect on the past as well as delve into current issues,” Adams said. “It allows for us to celebrate all that is our diversity.”
Adams said it is valuable for people to have an understanding of cultures different from their own.

“As we look back at diversity and inclusive excellence, these events allow us to appreciate various topics and populations,” Adams said. “By communicating with people of different backgrounds and being exposed to their cultures, [it] makes for a better student and person in general.”

Adams said there is still a lot of work to be done to end racism, but becoming accustomed to other cultures is beneficial.

“The first step to overcoming racism is understanding the history,” Adams said. “If everyone made an effort to understand and expose themselves to different cultures, it would be a step in the right direction.”

Adams said the conversation drew attention to the current reality of African-American students and people of color.

“The discussion surrounding the African-American student experience on campus, equity and diversity was very insightful and sparked a great deal of in-depth discussion and brought to light how students of color, particularly African-Americans, are feeling on campus, in the community and in general,” Adams said.

The discussion facilitator and UWO history professor Jeffrey Pickron said the event was significant because everyone got a chance to share their perspective.

“It gave students the chance to express their viewpoints regarding racism in a setting that includes students, faculty, staff and administrators,” Pickron said.

Pickron said this event was a sort of follow-up to last semester’s celebration of Black Thursday’s 50th anniversary, one of the most important events in UWO history.

“At a time [1968] when African-Americans were beginning to have a presence on campus, they articulated a number of concerns about the way African-Americans were treated unequally on campus and in the community,” Pickron said. “I wanted to come back to some of those original areas of concern to see what today’s students had to say, to see if we’ve made progress or if we still have work to do.”

Pickron said as the majority on campus, white students need to make a particular effort to understand the experience of students of color and be actively engaged in understanding and working against racism.

“This event demonstrated some of the complexity and subtlety of contemporary racism,” Pickron said. “I hope the value of it was to expose some of the ‘microaggressions’ that occur every day, to show how they impact students of color and how we can all be more mindful of one another.”

Pickron said it should be a primary goal to work toward true equality.

“Racism is still America’s original sin and a problem that we must continue to fight,” Pickron said. “It might have become more subtle and complex in some ways, but it is still present and pernicious.”