The first lecture of the Colloquium Series on Diversity began last week with Gitty Amini’s lecture surrounding the theme of white guilt.
Amini, an associate professor of political science at the University of La Verne, opened the discussion on the topic of Barack Obama’s election, and whether it has changed our view about bias, bigotry and racism.
“Even though we like thinking of ourselves as a melting pot, there are still issues of race,” Amini said.
Before a group of nearly 30 students and faculty in the West Dining Room, Amini began her presentation by introducing the new generation of black politicians at the March 19 event.
The Colloquium Series lecture was sponsored by the Coalition for Diversity and the African American Student Alliance.
Among those politicians discussed was Eric Holder, the first African American attorney general appointed by President Obama.
Amini branched off of Holder’s idea that race is an issue not discussed often enough.
Much of the lecture centered on the question of whether the United States as a whole has truly overcome issues of racism since the Civil Rights Era and entered a post-racial society.
Despite attempts to integrate and accept differing cultural values, national events isolate minorities.
“We need to re-examine whether Black History Month makes sense,” Amini said. “Congress needed to set aside a national day for minorities. Are (dedicated) months really necessary? This only isolates them.”
Following Amini’s initial presentation was the discussion portion of the session.
A number of topics were brought forth including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the idea that it may be revoked.
“It seems juvenile. These are just attempts to bring down the community that have always been there,” Amini said.
Also discussed was Toya Johnson-Moore’s proposal that in order to be successful, the black community feels the need to mask its true identity.
“(There is) a common epidemic among African Americans,” Johnson-Moore said. “Black people have to put on different faces. Is that a shame that that has to happen? Why is it that they have to put on different faces to assimilate mainstream society?”
“(They are) criticized for being too black or not black enough,” Amini said.
From this, the issue turned to the discussion of skin color, and how the variations in skin color affect how different people are perceived.
Obama’s light complexion was raised as a possible advantage to him in terms of winning over white voters.
Another topic that was brought up was the belief that the black community was not completely supportive of Obama during his campaign.
“Color is the first thing they see,” Johnson-Moore said.
“There are two things on the table,” said Richard Rose, professor of religion and philosophy. “One, whether it would’ve been any different if (Obama) was a little bit dark, and also, whether an increase in African American support would’ve made a difference.”
The discussion ended on a positive note, as participants concluded that Obama was a capstone for minorities, as his predecessors proved to have taken prominent roles in politics and society alike.
“(The discussion) was good,” said Cleveland Hayes, a professor of education. “It facilitated good discussions of conversations we needed to have,”
“What I liked about (this discussion) was that it opened a discussion beyond minorities,” said Jason Niedleman, associate professor of political science. “It was an issue that brought together everyone. It opened up all issues and didn’t have a particular agenda.”
Marla Bahloul can be reached at email@example.com.