Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Campus forum discusses racial justice

A lack of empathy is one of the issues surrounding reactions to recent events in Ferguson, said Christopher Whitt, associate professor of political science, at a community discussion on Monday.
“Justice should be something that doesn’t have a color,” said Whitt during the discussion. “Justice should be something that doesn’t have a social class. We all should want it.”
This open conversation, lead by the Black Student Union (BSU), Interfaith Understanding, the Office of Multicultural Student Life and Campus Ministries, focused on the St. Louis County grand jury that, on Nov. 24, chose to not indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting teenager Michael Brown. Approximately 70 members of the Augustana community were in attendance.

Pastor Richard Priggie, Professor of Sociology Christopher Whitt and Elanor Nolan, junior, discuss different attitudes regarding events in Ferguson. Many different views met in discussion of this topic on Monday night. Photo by Linnea Ritchie.

Whitt said the forum went well, saying that this was a good starting point for such dialogue.
“You’re definitely not going to have solutions in one discussion, but I think it definitely made people feel better that there was an open forum and that people are listening,” said Whitt.
He said listening was of the main discussion points throughout the conversation.
“Listening and actually having a feeling of empathy for the pain that others may experience,” said Whitt.
BSU President Darien Marion-Burton said he was happy with the representation of faculty and administrative members as well as the representation of white students and students of color.
“That was really important in the discussion,” said Marion-Burton.
During the discussion, BSU secretary Crystal Gray said that history is repeating itself and in order to fix this, people must step outside of themselves.
Gray said the reason she came to the discussion is that she has been affected by racism and the events in Ferguson. She said this has mostly been through micro aggressions.
“I think that the most disheartening things have been the racist incidences that happened last year, especially with Confederate flag being shown at the black culture house and things of that nature,” said Gray.
Interfaith President Vicky Gillon said the discussion was beneficial in helping allies to recognize their role and to realize that Ferguson is not an isolated event even on Augustana’s campus, an example being anonymous racist comments posted on the social media site Yik Yak a few weeks ago.
“The ignorance that drove to those Yik Yaks is a part of the ignorance that lead to Michael Brown’s death, so if we as a campus become more passionate about justice, then real change will happen,” said Gillon.
She said Interfaith became involved with the discussion due to their focus on social justice and interfaith connections to the events in Ferguson.
“When it comes to racial profiling, especially with the police, there are other races, such as people from the Middle East (and) people from India, who are racially profiled because of the events that happened on Sept. 11, and that has lead to violence,” said Gillon. “This is just a symbol of this brutality that has been happening in America for so long and that voice that it is giving to especially black people but also to other people of color who have not had a voice.”
Augustana’s Chaplain Pastor Richard Priggie, who was the originator of the discussion, also led a candlelight vigil where he asked others to pray for justice in Ferguson.
Briana Brown expresses her opinion of the events in Ferguson last Monday. Students and faculty gathered to show their commitment to diversity and understanding. Photo by Linnea Ritchie
Briana Brown expresses her opinion of the events in Ferguson last Monday. Students and faculty gathered to show their commitment to diversity and understanding.
Photo by Linnea Ritchie

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Campus forum discusses racial justice