Pedro Isao Mori
Placido Gomez, associate dean of academic affairs, highlighted ongoing problems in the world and the lack of time to think about solutions in a lecture titled “We Don’t Have Time to Rub Elbows and Sip Tea” at noon Tuesday in the Quay Davis Boardroom.
Gomez started the talk by explaining a story that involved the name of the lecture. It is a reference to a project at Harvard University that aimed at improving the quality of life for Native Americans, but the group had initially failed to include native voices. At a dinner held the night before the meeting, a native student was invited and gave a list of names of people who were native and qualified to speak on the topics. To this the person supposedly said, “I don’t have time to rub elbows and sip tea.”
He then began sharing three problems that he believed were challenges that we don’t have time to sit around and discuss how we’re going to solve them. The first one being world hunger, referencing a Ted Talk he had seen on the subject.
“Every 10 seconds one of the kids (on the screen) would disappear and when all dozen of them had disappeared another dozen would appear,” said Gomez. “I remember thinking, ‘OK, I get your point.’ I know what you are saying but stop making those kids disappear. It was tragic, but then I realized that was her point.”
Gomez also highlighted that the idea of food insecurity is not something foreign for most people. He stated that about 16 million people, 6 million of which are children, face the same problem in the United States. With 2.5 million children facing food insecurity in Los Angeles County as well.
The story then shifted to his experience as a law professor. Gomez frequently took groups of students to court to show them what proceedings were like.
He mentioned that when one of his students said, “What is this? A courtroom for Blacks and Mexicans?” It made him take a closer look at the room and notice that all the convicts were minorities. All he could say back to the student was, “It certainly looks like it.”
However, the incident that left the largest impression on Gomez was after one of the inmates was sentenced.
“(The inmates) her family cried to her ‘we love you’ and the bailiff came running towards the family reaching for his nightstick and mace,” said Gomez. “‘Do not communicate with the prisoners. Don’t make eye contact with the prisoners.’ I remember thinking, ‘Is that what we’ve come to?’”
Gomez added on saying that he did not feel ok because he was sure that this was also happening in courtrooms across the country. He said that there are more African Americans in prison today than there were slaves in 1860, a statistic from the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
The last topic he covered involved the border between the U.S. and Mexico, highlighting the fact that most of these people are making their way up to the border in search of a better life but the country seems to be building a wall instead.
He rounded off by saying that the watch for current students had already begun. That the current generation of students would be responsible for making a difference going forward.
“From this lecture, I got that money is the root of all problems and we need to be able to fix the issue of money, ” said freshman kinesiology major Kimberly Lein. “In order to be able to fix issues of education, the criminal justice system or even taxes and food security. It’s really about being able to help each other out as humans and working together towards a better society.”
Aaron Vasquez, freshman psychology major, said it was important to put pen to paper and to take action.
“We should go to action and all the problems are super important so we should act on them now,” Vasquez said.
Aerin Wiggins, sophomore business administration, said the lecture was powerful and had an impact on students in college.
“It’s learning about how we are going to make a difference in the world. I think this lecture did exactly that and it’s easily one of the best lectures I’ve ever attended,” Wiggins said.
Pedro Isao Mori can be reached at email@example.com.