On Monday, February 27th, Missouri State University hosted a Black History Month lecture at the Davis-Harrington Welcome Center. The keynote speaker was Ben Sanders III, who is the Assistant Professor of Theology & Ethics at Eden Theological Seminary. The topic for the evening was “Race, Law Enforcement and Faith-Based Racism.” After the presentation, Fresh U caught up with five MSU students about their take on the event and the state of our country. MSU student Autumn McNeal commented:
“I decided to come to this tonight because I have my own opinions and I wanted to see other black people’s opinions to see if they collaborate. I try to go to lectures like this because I really don’t like the Internet. You can’t trust anything."
A variety of topics were discussed in the short hour. The one that evoked the most response from the packed audience was on police brutality and negligence. Although the speaker Ben Sanders III was quick to say that “police academies don’t have white supremacy training,” the white population has always been obsessed with law and how to enforce the law. One of the first statements he made was about Mike Brown, who was fatally shot in Ferguson, MO, by officer Darren Wilson in 2014.
Two of the students Fresh U interviewed had direct connections to the shooting that shook the country. These two students experienced the aftershocks first hand. Ciere Hunter is from Ferguson and went to the same high school as Michael Brown. She commented:
“I didn’t know him personally, but being in that neighborhood, you see how real it is and it made me think about how it could've been my brother or my cousin. It’s really eye-opening."
Tylar Andre is also an MSU student from the St. Louis area, and she was among those in the crowd the night Wilson was not indicted. She said:
“You felt some type of way when you saw the devastation of all the black people there. Their faces were so sad and so angry. You could feel the anger from everyone there about how he didn’t get in trouble. You could feel all that energy. It was crazy."
Other students had strong opinions on the state of the country and are no strangers to the effects of racism. They expressed concerns over the injustice among blacks and whites. Student Kelsey Reen shared:
“White people have more advantages than blacks, because a lot whites are born into money; us blacks aren't born into anything. We have to work for everything that we have. Things are not handed to us."
The students also had issue with the handling of black oppression because of white inability to confront it. But Keirra Oates offered some advice for white college students and community members in general: get out of your comfort zone. Even Sanders said in his presentation that whites have to stick their necks out for black people:
“I know it's hard for Caucasians to get to know their African neighbors. But get to know them...MSU should have events where everyone is required to come to get information like we got here. Understand where we come from, and then find a root to the problem to fix it,” Oates said.
The girls also started an interesting conversation on schooling and the importance of spending time to really go over African-American history. While going back and forth to discuss what they have learned in previous classes, they spoke passionately about working towards equality and togetherness while also asking for white history teachers to be more aware of how they teach black history. Their advice? Don’t categorize.
“My teacher is Caucasian and he speaks as if blacks are more conservative while whites are liberal. I feel like that puts us in a category. There are blacks that are liberal too...Don't sit up there and put us in categories, because when you look at it, we are all the same,” Reen said.
They also have many messages for the new U.S. President. All of them believe that Trump is irredeemable. The way he has acted and what he has said about minority groups have taken its toll on these students. They expressed their distaste for how he has handled running the country “like a business,” as Reen described it. A majority of the interview was spent discussing Trump and his relationship to the black community.
“It’s too late for him to get majority blacks on his side. I just feel like [because] he has a lot of money, his family doesn't have to worry about things that we have to worry about daily. This man has never had a real job in his life, so therefore, he doesn't know the meaning of struggle,” Reen said. “He doesn't understand — he’ll never know what it’s like to be black, or what it feels like to be lower class.”
Fresh U spoke with the students about these topics for nearly 30 minutes, and these students were the last to leave the room after the event ended. Conversations such as these are vital for people of all backgrounds, races and economic statuses to work together to find solutions that can put an end to prejudice and racism. The event on Monday attracted a big crowd and hopefully inspired more people to be active in the fight against racism.
“So many things are happening in our society and we need to make things better before they get worse,” Reen said.
Lead Image Credit: Cally Chisholm
- Editor's Note: Some comments were edited for clarity.