A few of weeks ago, Arcadia University held a discussion in response to the shooting of Michael Brown and the continuing protests occurring in Ferguson, Mo. My suitemates and I decided that we would go together.
As I walked down the stairs toward the Great Room where the town hall was being held, I was unsure about how the session would go. I had these feelings for two reasons. First, race and race-based issues are not necessarily discussed openly on campus. And, I was not sure many students would come to the event or, if they did, I wasn’t sure how they would respond to the topic.
Once I stepped into the room with my suitemates, we were all surprised at the turnout. The registration line was so long that faculty had to stop it in order to start the discussion on time. Entering the Great Room, I noticed such diversity in the room – different ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, ages, religious beliefs, and education backgrounds. So much diversity was present, and not just in terms of race, which was important to me because I felt that it would make the discussion interesting and critical as far as being able to dissect and understand the issues.
The discussion branched out to many other topics such as racial profiling, identity, stereotypes, police, systems, people’s personal experiences and connections to the topic. One story that had me on the edge of my seat was when a black male stood up and spoke on his experience of being a target in society because of his skin color. His story was powerful because I felt the pain, annoyance, and anger in his voice. He said that he had almost been shot twice by police officers even when they had no reasonable cause. This individual’s story touched or spoke to others regardless of race because we were able to imagine having an unknown and undefinable target on your back.
The discussion in itself was great. I think that it allowed for all of us to speak, listen, and understand each other. I really enjoyed myself at this event because I felt empowered to make change for my community, school, family, and friends. I also felt a stronger connection to Arcadia students at the event because we saw each other as equals and not by colors. This made me see the power that Arcadia students have in their community. After the event, I knew that I had chosen Arcadia for a reason, it’s my home. Once I got back to my room I hung up the handout for the Figuring out Ferguson event. I thought about how lucky I was to have been able to participate in it.