Race in America: Can we talk about it?

March 24, 2015
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PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education will host “Race in America: Can We Talk About It?” a series of forums designed to examine issues and solutions related to race in America. The forums are sponsored by the College of LAE’s Ethnic Studies program, Diversity Committee and Social and Environmental Justice program.

The “Race in America” forum series opened on March 3 with “American Denial: What is the Reality of America’s Values?” At the forum, audience members watched “American Denial,” a movie that explores the impact of unconscious biases around race and class in America by examining a landmark 1944 inquiry into Jim Crow segregation, and then discussed how American values compared with reality. The panel included Dr. Rosalyn Broussard, professor of political science; Dr. David Krugler, professor of history; and Dr. David Gillota, assistant professor of English.

The upcoming forums will include “Affirmative Action: Myth and Realities” on April 1; “Crisis in American Policing: What We Can Do About It!” on April 8; and “Teaching Activism in the Classroom” on April 14. All forums will be held in 103 Doudna Hall at UW-Platteville.

Broussard said she hopes people who attend the forums leave with a deeper understanding about racism, injustice and inequality, and how to make positive change in the world.

“First, I hope that everyone who attends the forums leaves with an understanding that racism is not an individual phenomenon; it is deeply embedded in the fabric of the United States,” said Broussard. “One must remember that institutionalized racism has been a part of the Americas since 1492. That is 476 years, compared to 47 years where it has been illegal. Also, within those 47 years, 37 of them have been plagued with pushback from the political right to undo any government policies to redress racial discrimination.”

“Second, I hope that people who attend the forums come away with the understanding that injustice and inequalities – whether racial, economic or gender-related – lead to a social and political system of pathologies that, if not addressed, will eventually destroy that society from the inside,” said Broussard.

“And third, I hope people understand that we all have the power to create change, if we are willing to put in the work and stay the course, because change does not come overnight; it takes time,” said Broussard. “America is at a crossroads, and it is up to the people to decide what kind of country they want to live in – one where gross inequalities are the new normal, or one that lives up to the democratic values of equality and justice for all.”

The forums include:

“Affirmative Action: Myth and Realities”
Wednesday, April 1, 103 Doudna Hall, UW-Plattevillle, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Presenters will examine many of the myths and realities surrounding affirmative action and reverse discrimination. Presenters will include Broussard, who will discuss the history of affirmative action, and Margaret Karsten, professor of business, who will discuss affirmative action from a business point of view.

“It is very important for us to look at issues involving race,” said Broussard. “Throughout our country’s history, we have never truly addressed the issue of racial inequality. In order for this country to move forward, we need to have conversations about racial inequalities and income inequalities so that we can work toward finding solutions. The forum will provide a place for people to come together to talk openly about both of these issues and more. I hope forum participants will leave feeling more comfortable speaking freely about race and become active participants in creating positive change that helps us move forward.”

“Crisis in American Policing: What We Can Do About It!”
Wednesday, April 8, 103 Doudna Hall, UW-Platteville, 6-7:30 p.m.

At the forum, David Couper, a retired police chief, pastor, poet and author, will discuss problems and solutions to urban policing. Couper served as chief of the Madison Police Department in Madison, Wis., from 1972-93. During that time, he helped transform local policing and developed reforms that spread nationwide. His book, “Arrested Development,” redefines the role of policing in the 21st century and provides a plan of action.

“Events in the last year – from Ferguson, Mo., to New York City, N.Y., to Madison, Wis. – have made it clear that we need to think carefully about the relationship between American police and American society,” said Dr. Travis Nelson, associate professor of political science at UW-Platteville. “This has become one of the defining social justice issues of our time.”

“Teaching Activism in the Classroom”
Tuesday, April 14, 103 Doudna Hall, UW-Platteville, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

At the forum, Dr. Frank King, assistant professor of ethnic studies, will discuss the art of activism and encourage students to move beyond the classroom and become fully engaged citizens of the nation and the world.

“There are major issues plaguing our global community,” said King. “From income inequality to climate change, and even locally with the defunding of schools, we can’t be passive and expect change. Social networking is a great tool for understanding issues and mobilizing, but we depend on it too much which leads to what is called ‘Hactivism.’ Voting is the basic form of activism, but it’s still not enough as politicians care more about special interests than their constituents.”

“Mobilizing and nonviolent resistance can lead to some major change,” King continued. “At the least, it brings more awareness. From the recent events of Occupy Wall Street, fast food workers striking, Black Lives Matter and public service employees in Madison, more people became aware of major social issues. Now – if more people became active – imagine the changes that could take place.”

The forum series is an extension of the College of LAE’s “Making Sense of Ferguson: Race, Police, and Community Rights” forum, held in November. At the forum, four UW-Platteville faculty members discussed issues surrounding the controversial case in Ferguson. Presenters included Broussard, King, Gillota and Dr. Patrick Solar, assistant professor of criminal justice and a retired police chief. About 300 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the forum.

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The “Race in America: Can We Talk About It?” forums align with three of the priorities, including providing an outstanding education, fostering a community of achievement and respect and enriching the tri-state region. 

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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