Panel encourages racial discourse among students

Students and faculty gathered together in Genesee Hall’s main lounge on Sunday Feb. 21 to attend a movie and panel discussion held in response to the recent Black History Month poster vandalism scandal on campus. The film Dear White People was shown, starting with a few hiccups involving sound but eventually continuing without any issues. Dear White People showed the complexity of the relationships each character has with their race while dealing with racism on a college campus.

After the movie ended with unnerving pictures documenting real instances of racist incidents on college campuses, the floor was opened to allow students to communicate their thoughts and reactions to the film. Some students expressed their appreciation for the racial and sexual diversity of the characters’ backgrounds.

“Oftentimes in the media, you don’t see people of color who are also not heterosexual,” senior Leah Collazo said. “I thought it was really refreshing.”

Many of the students connected the film’s exploration of college racism to issues plaguing students of color at Geneseo. These problems ranged from dealing with friends who make racist comments to talking to strangers who unknowingly make them feel uncomfortable about being a non-white individual. Eventually, the discussion shifted to focus on the recent acts of vandalism. Many expressed their disgust and sadness when hearing about the poster incident.

“What did black people do wrong to deserve this [treatment]?” sophomore Eunisha Tucker asked.

“The one time we actually get supported … you want to rip it down,” sophomore Brianna Grant said. “I just don’t see how us being able to enjoy [the posters] or you being able to learn from [them] just turns into something full of hate.”

The discussion also acted as a platform for students to offer ideas to faculty members on how to prevent issues like vandalism. Many students called for the creation of programs to educate students on college racism, but they soon realized one of the main obstacles in the education process.

“The inherent problem that all these discussions have are the only people who tend to show up are people who don’t necessarily need to have these discussions,” sophomore Michael Carlin said. “Every time we have one of [these events] … the biggest problem we are faced with is getting the people that need the education [to come to] these programs and to these discussions.”

Regardless, many of the students seemed to leave the panel in high spirits in light of the productive discourse about addressing and combatting racism on campus. 

“It’s great to hear people’s ideas in a formal discussion, because then it really gets you thinking, ‘It’s not just me who’s experiencing this—I’m not going crazy—it’s literally on campus,’” Collazo said.

This event acted as step forward in getting administrative action.

“This particular discussion was really great in the fact that we were able to identify that as a problem and then start the movement of thinking how to address it,” Carlin said. “And not only were there students here, there are administrators too, so there was actually communication.”