On Tuesday, February 6, the Temple Issues Forum (TIF) and radio station WHYY 91 FM presented the third installment in a series of discussion, debate and questioning on the issue, “Experiencing Diversity at Temple, Studying Race.”
The event presented in the Kiva Auditorium, Ritter Hall Annex consisted of two one-hour sessions of a four-person panel discussion, with comments and questions from the audience and radio callers, and a one-hour off-air session.
The 10:00-11:00 hour panel was asked the question, “What should students be gaining from the everyday experience of ethnic/racial diversity at Temple?” Glenn Reitz, an African-American Studies graduate student, believed he was learning as much about himself as he was others in his line of study about, “what it is to be a white male.”
Self-segregation was also one of the many interwoven topics addressed by the first panel. Reitz said he viewed the issue as “functional,” serving as a sort of “comfort zone,” noting that talking to people in one’s particular group helps interaction with other groups.
Tammy Nopper, a Sociology undergraduate, questioned the term “segregation” because of its historical connotation asserting that it could also “be a means of community development.”
Telling a story of white professors congregating in the dining hall, Nopper also stressed her concern about the term usually alluding solely to groups of color. She said, “people are mechanical in racial decision making,” that people make too many assumptions about people coming together.
Throughout the discussion racial problems were brought into question- if Temple and the general public only saw such questions in black and white, and if so was this acceptable?
Don Hartman, a Sociology undergraduate, saw this “linear focus” highly influenced by Supreme Court cases and decisions.
“We are generalizing because of Supreme Court decisions. Historically it has been the case that if blacks can get it [equal treatment] other minorities can get it.”
However, Nopper assertively disagreed, believing one “looking through a black and white lens” misses out on a great deal of history.
A radio caller, Lewis, said he saw the issue of racism as an issue “to be solved by white people” conceding “it is their [white’s] problem.”
Citing assumed misuse of the 14th Amendment to support his claim Lewis stated his belief that one of “Americas racist problems” is that a black person is guilty until proven innocent.
The panelists had a general sense of agreement on the claim- that it is not solely a white problem but that whites need to have a prominent role in the solution.
The second panel was posed with the question, “What should students be getting from the university’s Studies in Race requirement?”
As opposed to the previous panel, which consisted of students, the second panel was made up of Temple faculty. Throughout the discussion, audience members and panelists were in general agreement about Temple’s cunning methods of fulfilling student demand back in the early 90’s for a race requirement.
Molefi Asante a professor in the African-American Studies department conveyed this belief.
“These classes aren’t what students were asking for. They were asking for a class in racism not race.”
Each professor said they had a different method of teaching the Studies in Race credit.
Dan Silverman, from Criminal Justice, said he asks students “How does this country’s official mistreatment of African-Americans play out in the criminal justice system.”
Anna Stubblefield, from Philosophy, has students read texts usually neglected in her department, understanding the class is not meant as a means of “behavior modification” and also “not there to help white students become better citizens.”
Roland Williams, from English, takes a similar approach, “I usually start with the fact that we live in a veil, here in America. I attempt to lift the veil in my classes. To help students gain a clearer picture of the world.”
After the event Herbert W. Simmons, Coordinator for TIF, said things “went well, except white students seemed intimidated by the environment.”
Seeking an explanation for this he continued, “People need to combat racism as a problem of power and intimidation. A dialogue like this deepens understanding.”