Cortlynn Stark, The Black Bear – On Feb. 8, the Plaster Student Union Theater was packed with students interested in being a part of an open discussion about race.
The goal of the discussion was for students to be open and honest about discussing difficult topics. Student Activities Council put on different activities for students to participate in to promote this discussion.
One activity asked students to count on their fingers how many things they identified with. Students were asked an assortment of things like “people routinely mispronounce my name” to “I have been expected to speak as a representative for my entire race.” By the end of the activity, most students had several fingers raised in the air.
The evening continued in a similar fashion, continuously asking for participation from the audience.
“I like that people were really engaged with it,” Ashley Thornton said, senior and lecture chair for SAC, majoring in entertainment management. “A lot of people fully participated and committed to what our goals were.”
During another activity, ten volunteers stood on stage facing the audience. On the screen behind them, SAC showed different job attributes. They asked the audience to say whether or not they’d hire the person based on the given attribute, the volunteer’s major and their dream job.
Words like “lazy”, “angry”, “unintelligent” and “prudish” were flashed on the screen. This activity started a conversation about subjectivity.
There was also conversation about the difference between cultural appropriation, cultural appreciation and cultural exchange.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, appropriation is “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.”
The facilitators of the discussion ensured audience members were aware of what cultural appropriation is and the difference between appreciation and exchange.
They also addressed the black lives killed by police, listing names such as “Trayvon Martin” and “Michael Brown.”
“This is systemic genocide with the intent to eradicate a race with ethnic cleansing.,” junior and sociology major Ravyn Brooks said during the discussion. “From now on we need to say what it is. That is what all lives matter does not understand.”
However, community member and private security worker Logan, who declined to confirm his last name, spoke up on behalf of “the police or the white side.”
“I think more people wanted to say that their group mattered more than other groups. That’s why black lives got started,” Logan said. “We’re one big melting, pot we’re accepting of everybody.”
Logan was not the only community member to speak up on behalf of the police. Former Independence, MO police officer Michelle spoke up during the discussion.
“The training that police officers get in our country is six months. It is not enough, it is not appropriate,” Michelle said. “So if you’re going to fight this battle…fight for better training for all law enforcement personnel.”
Additionally, during the discussion, a screen on the side of the theater showed different tweets by audience members. Some tweets were laughed at while some, sparked intense conversation.
“I’m hoping with us creating a safe space that people will be more open to just expressing what they really feel,” senior Victoria Smith said, president of SAC and entertainment management major. “I really hope that people are now looking deeper at what the climate is and the culture of our campus.”