Personal testimonies of racial experiences filled a crowded room in the Liberal Arts Building Monday as Aggie Agora hosted “Difficult Dialogue: Campus Race Relations.”
Aggie Agora, a group within the College of Liberal Arts that hosts a series of lectures aimed at facilitating public discourse and civic engagement, hosted the event to allow students the opportunity to open up about their experiences with racism and offer possible solutions to issues.
“The purpose of our event was to create a forum or space for students to get a chance to talk about race relations and racism and their experiences about it,” said Srividya Ramasubramanian, associate dean for Climate and Inclusion in the College of Liberal Arts. “We would like students who came to be agents of change in their own organizations and friend circles.”
Sociology freshman Devyne Jones said she was motivated to take part in the event because of her friends’ lack of understanding of her experiences.
“I know some of my own friends who are very ignorant to things, and I also have friends of different colors who just don’t see the importance of why we should talk about race,” said Jones. “I figured that coming here would make me feel like I am a part of the change, not just wondering.”
Ramasubramanian said attendees also examined different types of biases and prejudices.
“It could be racist jokes that people say,” Ramasubramanian said. “It could be slurs or name calling. It could be stereotypical perceptions, or it could even be things like threats or verbal assaults. Those circumstances, we talked about ways in which we can respond.”
Political science sophomore Alexander Rodriguez said with social media sites such as Yik Yak and Twitter serving as a havens for racism, it is important to live in reality rather than virtual reality.
“Building your social network outside of social media — outside of your day-to-day friends, outside of people that look like you — is important to truly get a feel for those of different races than yours and to understand them,” Rodriguez said.
With approximately 60 students in attendance and another 50 on a wait list to attend, the discussion proved to be successful and served as a tool for students to combat racism on campus, said Ramasubramanian.
“At many points throughout the night, the students kept asking for more time for discussion to go on because they felt they had so much to listen to and talk about,” Ramasubramanian said.