Under the shadow of McMicken College of Arts and Science’s scaffolds, students built on their education Tuesday in McMicken Commons regarding race under multiple perspectives with faculty, staff, alumni and administration.
Organized by members of The IRATE 8 and the Anthropology department, the Teach-In was a comprehensive effort by multiple University of Cincinnati college departments and organizations to educate students.
Stephanie Sadre-Orafai, Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology, said the Teach-In was deliberatively democratic, open and action-oriented.
“The idea for the teach-in came from faculty who had already shown support for the IRATE 8 on social media and in open letters, but wanted to do more,” Sadre-Orafai said. “They reached out to the IRATE 8 via Twitter and proposed two ideas that could best leverage their expertise and skills — the teach-in and a crowd-sourced syllabus.”
Ashley Nkadi, a fourth-year neuroscience student, said other schools typically approach the actual lesson in a format similar to die-in protests, where listeners sit around a speaker.
Nkadi said the teach-in is built like speed dating, but with diversity education in mind.
Ervin Matthew, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, went into the racialized nature of society’s social systems through his program titled “Racism without Racists.”
“It’s hard to occupy positions of privilege, especially when [occupants] don’t feel privileged themselves, and talk to them about it,” Matthew said. “How do you get people to change the system when often people don’t look at it as a systemic issue?"
Matthew said the element of awareness is essential to combating systemic racism, but this effort cannot solely work.
“With a system built around inequality, we must act with intent,” Matthew said. “It’s a machine, and there are risks… take the risk, or inequality shall reign. If we are an institute of higher learning, then that means the institution values it — it does not mean I value it and the institution is sympathetic.”
Matthew continued to speak on the necessity for UC to make equality an institutional priority through a change in course curriculum.
“[African-American courses] aren’t built into the curriculum, so now your asking people to do an act of heroism to say, ‘I know that I need these courses to fulfill my bio major, and I’m going to intentionally put off fulfilling my major to go out of my way to take a course that I don’t get any credit for, because social justice matters to me,’” Matthew said.
Asia Harris, an employee at the Center for Closing the Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati, spoke to the health disparities currently affecting Cincinnati.
“We have a community were 18 babies per 1,000 die, whereas at the county level it is nine,” Harris said. “African-American and Latino patients are less likely to receive the best treatment or the best courses of treatment for their illnesses.”
Harris said this health disparity could be linked to African-Americans dying of chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease.
Creating a culture of health for the most vulnerable populations in the Greater Cincinnati area include advocating for the elimination of oversaturated fast food restaurants, liquor stores and violence in public spaces as well as educating people in the healthcare systems and health literacy, Harris said.
Dr. Paul E. Abercrumbie, director of diversity in the Vice President of Student Affairs office, held a presentation revisiting Dr. Maulana Karenga’s Political Culture and Resurgent Racism in the U.S.
Abercrumbie began the discussion by examining the power behind words, presenting ethnocentrism, prejudice, bigotry and racism while asking which word held the most power to it.
“The power word would be that if you are called that would make you cry, or make you feel the worst,” Abercrumbie said. “Racist, based on the definition, says power dynamic — I’m keeping people down, I’m taking their history.”
Karenga’s definition of racism is “a systematic denial, defamation and/or destruction of a people’s history, humanity and right to freedom based exclusively or primarily on that specie’s concept of race.”
Abercrumbie detailed political culture is exemplified in African-Americans knowing more about European-centered culture in school than their own.
“If you take Karenga’s definition of racism, you can’t have a conversation about reverse-racism,” Abercrumbie said.
Abercrumbie said the issue is not coming to a definition but once the political culture is exposed, blaming and separation follow, which are detrimental to being progressive by engaging in dialogue around racism.
“You need to have your definitions correct to fight oppression,” Abercrumbie said. “The importance of political culture is to not be afraid of it, you could not be perfect, but don’t be afraid.”
The event, sponsored by African American Cultural & Resource Center and Student Activities & Leadership Development, plans to occur again November.
“I enjoyed how professors made interactive lessons rather than talking at people,” Nkadi said. “I think it went really well, I was generally excited because people who were passing through ended up staying."