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Students delve into discussion on racism

by Tegan Mazur - Copy Editor
Tue, Feb 7th 2017 11:00 pm
Emma Misiaszek/PHOTO EDITOR
EXPOSING RACISM  The College at Brockport hosted a screening of the documentary `I'm Not Racist ...  Am I?` February 2 and 3. The screening was a way to allow students to participate in open dialogue about racism in our country. Pictured is the group who helped plan this event.
Emma Misiaszek/PHOTO EDITOR EXPOSING RACISM The College at Brockport hosted a screening of the documentary "I'm Not Racist ... Am I?" February 2 and 3. The screening was a way to allow students to participate in open dialogue about racism in our country. Pictured is the group who helped plan this event.

 Thursday, Jan. 2, and Friday, Jan. 3, screenings of the documentary "I'm Not Racist ... Am I?" were held in Edwards Hall. The documentary was screened twice both days, followed by discussions about the film meant to foster an open dialogue about race.

The beginning of the event started with people signing in and sitting down in one of the three sections of seating in Edwards Hall room 106, but the people running the event quickly ushered everyone into the center sections of seats all together, so that everyone there could hear each other and interact more closely and effectively once the discussion began.

Those running the event began by going over a community agreement in regards to watching the movie and the planned discussion afterwards. The agreement was in place to ensure that when tackling a subject like race, everyone was respectful, respected and heard.

The documentary itself covered the issue of race and privilege in the United States. It followed a group of young teenagers as they came together for a weekend retreat and learned about racism and its systematic presence in their lives. A month later they met again and tackled the same issues. The group met several times to learn about themselves and those around them and how racism impacts all of them. The cast is fairly diverse and brought several unique perspectives to the documentary.

The documentary is by no means shy and tackles a host of the various veins in society in which racism manifests itself. Even though the students had a lot to learn, they could identify things that they sensed had roots in racism, like society's preoccupation with associating things that are light with good and things that are dark with bad.

About halfway through, someone in the documentary explained to the kids that by virtue of systematic racism, all white people are racist. At this, the video was paused. The audience was asked to turn to someone sitting nearby them, someone they did not already know, and talk to them about what was just said on screen.

The other moment that seemed to be a highlight for the documentary was a confrontation between two of the kids, Terrence and Martha. Martha expressed her frustration and displeasure at the passive aggressive way Terrence treats Martha's ignorance about racism. Martha became so upset that she left the room. One of the people working in the documentary talked to her and convinced her to come back in the group, stating to her and indirectly to the audience as well that dealing with issues like this can be uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean you should just walk away from it.

Once the documentary had concluded the lights were turned on and the group discussion began. The discussion was run neatly and respectively with the program facilitators asking general questions to the audience, mostly asking to reflect in various ways on the film and how it relates to them and others in their own lives. Everyone was allowed to speak, one at a time.

The discussion lasted for a little over 40 minutes and covered a great deal. Several people even shared aspects of racism and existing in a racist society that they have personally experienced in their day to day lives.

Keara Knight, one of the student facilitators, said that this was not the first time they have shown this documentary, but she was pleasantly surprised by the reaction to it this time around.

"People are more responsive to it, to the concept of racism as defined in the movie and things along the line of that," Knight said. 

Knight also agreed that President Donald Trump has had a part in people being more receptive to talking about race.

 Dayana Germain, a senior at Brockport, was pleased with the way the discussion afterwards was structured. 

"I just like having open dialogue like we did today," Germain said.

This event created an opportunity to bring people together in a healthy, respectful environment to talk about race in a constructive way. 

The documentary and the discussion afterwards made for a relaxed event for people to attend and walk away having learned more about themselves, others and the world around them.

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