‘I Didn’t Know That …’ Considering the painful history of race and social justice, there is no end of ways for students to finish such a sentence of discovery.

‘I Didn’t Know that …’

Considering the painful history of race and social justice, there is no end of ways for students to finish such a sentence of discovery.

By Dawn Bonker

Nurturing conversations that fill in voids and challenge us as Americans was the driving goal behind “Engaging the World: Leading the Conversation on the Significance of Race.” The semester-long initiative in Chapman’s Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences included a virtual film series, guest speakers, memorial observances, an art exhibition, panel discussions and more. Wilkinson’s First Year Foundations courses focused on the theme as well.

We thought one way to hear how it went was to let students start the conversation by offering some of their takeaways from “Engaging the World.” With what they know now, more conversations are sure to follow.

From “Anti-Racism, A Continuous Journey From the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter and Beyond,” taught by Presidential Fellow in Peace Studies “Prexy” (Rozell W.) Nesbitt, Ph.D.

“I didn’t know that the racial wealth gap between a typical white family is nearly 10 times greater than that of an African American one. This goes to show that the deep-rooted racism in this country continues to hinder the opportunity for African Americans to be equally treated and grow in society.” — Riley Day 

“I didn’t know that there is no middle ground between being racist and anti-racist. The middle ground is a place of privilege, and it doesn’t exist. I tried staying in this middle ground, and I have realized I can’t just stand by and not be racist myself while at the same time I let others get away with unacceptable behavior.” — Kate Brown

From “Black Feminisms” taught by Angelica Allen, Ph.D. assistant professor, co-director of the Africana Studies minor program

“I didn’t know that Shirley Chisholm was not only the first Black woman elected to Congress but also the first Black woman candidate for a major party’s nomination for president of the United States.”  –Tatiana Haynes

From “Yellow Power to Yellow Peril,” taught by Stephanie Takaragawa, Ph.D., associate dean of academic affairs

“I didn’t know that the Hollywood Hays Code, intended to set moral standards in Hollywood, also made yellow face prevalent on screen because it was unacceptable to positively portray interracial relationships, subjugating talented Asian actors to secondary roles.” — Bernadine Cortina

“I didn’t know that the first example of yellow face and whitewashing in Hollywood was over 100 years ago in the silent film ‘Madame Butterfly’ (1915), and I’m shocked that films like ‘The Last Airbender’ (2010) carried this trend all the way into the 21st century.” — Michael Pepito

From “Intelligence, Race, Music, and Sports,” taught by Keith Howard, Ph.D., associate professor, associate dean for graduate education and academic affairs.

“I didn’t know how differently sports media outlets portrayed and publicized the criminal cases of NFL players Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger; Vick’s was given significantly more attention and his behavior was thematically attached to a subculture of black violence, while Roethlisberger (white) did not face the same scrutiny.” — Rachel Berns

From a film festival screening and discussion of “In a Beat,” a short drama portraying the challenges of a Black boy with autism.

“I didn’t know that individuals who are both neurodiverse and Black experience distinct obstacles because of societal prejudice against their intersectional identities.” — Lauren Bramlett

From the “Engaging the World” event, “To Remember and Reflect: In Memory of Kristallnacht 1938,” co-hosted with Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education

“I didn’t know that the only reason 10-year-old Thomas Buergenthal survived the atrocities of the Auschwitz death camp was because of the generosity of fellow captive, Odd Nansen, a Norwegian architect and son of famed explorer Fridtjof Nansen.” — Syd Brewster

From “Grime: a Journey Into the Roots of a Black British Music Form,” a guest lecture by scholar Monique Charles, Ph.D.

“I didn’t know that there was an entire genre of British music called Grime that is rooted in the specific experience of people from the African diaspora that combines their spirituality, race and music.” — Marisa Quezada

From “Hostile Terrain 94,” a pop-up art project of toe tags placed on a map, showing the locations where remains of migrants have been found near the U.S. southern border. Students hand-wrote the toe tags.

“I didn’t know how many migrants die in these deadly border-crossing zones. From watching documentaries and TV shows, I assumed the only deadly part of the natural border was the Rio Grande River. I falsely assumed that once a migrant was across the border, their journey was essentially complete.” – Michael Pepito

Engaging the World Continues

Environmental justice is the focus of the fall 2021 Engaging the World.  Learn More.