On Tuesday, Sep. 20, UNCG hosted the first “Brown is the New White” event, in the Cone Ballroom at the Elliot University Center. The program was organized by faculty and students, including Sarah Carrig, a Spanish professor from the department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at UNCG.
Attendees of “Brown is the New White,” were able to observe discussions of the background of this country’s racial inequities, as well as to look at the history of racial coalition building.
A portion of the event was given to speakers, which included students who are leaders and members of a variety of clubs and organizations at UNCG. Each speaker shared facts, statistics and video footage to exemplify the racial inequities of our country.
The focus of the event was on the experiences of African Americans and Latinos, as these are currently the two largest minorities in the United States. However, it was emphasized that the ideas presented could be beneficial to all minority groups.
Speakers stressed the roles that the division of racial and ethnic groups play in our country, and have played since the beginning of our country. Different evidence from varying subject areas was provided to support this claim.
Education, a speaker reminded those at the event, is still an area where equality does not exist between races. A 2010 study at Stanford University found that the students who remain in schools that are inferior and ineffective are often students of color.
Speakers also touched on race in relation to criminal justice, reminding attendants of the systematic mass incarceration of people of color. In relation to the treatment of minorities by the department of justice, the majority of people who live in areas near toxic waste sites belong overwhelmingly to minorities as well.
In addition to providing this information on how minorities are treated in comparison to whites in our country, speakers also highlighted where white citizens vastly outnumber minorities in the economic and political world. Ninety-six percent of fortune five hundred companies have white CEOs. Politically speaking, 90 percent of elected officials in America are white.
Additionally, there was discussion with regard to immigration in America, and the misconceptions that come with it. One speaker argued that immigrants are contributing to the U.S. economy, contrary to the commonly perpetrated idea that they are causing harm to the American economy.
A video clip shown at the event, expressed how America experiences economic growth due to immigration. Because immigrants contribute through the work force, through taxes and through their children. Additionally, the children of immigrants are more likely to receive college degrees than native-born citizens are; likely due to the ambition instilled in them to succeed and prove themselves.
After supplying a large amount of information on the racial inequities in the United States, through detailed speakers and video, the organizers introduced a break, and afterwards, began small group discussions.
The second portion of the “Brown in the New White” event, focused on these small group discussions. Incorporating a discussion into the event allowed all attendants the chance to participate; despite the fact that the discussion may be difficult. Conversation, organizers said, is necessary to breaking down racial barriers.
The small group discussion presented a question to each table, and allowed each member of the group to share their ideas and opinions on the matter. “Brown in the New White” organizers encouraged this interaction, knowing that open and honest discussion of racial differences is what really helps coalition.
Additionally, organizers wanted discussion participants to do their best to not be offended by any of the questions asked. However, if offended by a question, organizers wanted consideration as to why.
Organizers were aware that for some, the questions asked would be hard to respond to, but encouraged participants to answer openly.
In a conversation with event organizer Sarah Carrig, she was asked what changes she hoped to view as a result of the “Brown is the New White” event by the time of the follow-up event in February.
“My hope,” said Carrig, “is that the people who attended this meeting already belong to organizations that represent their group of people that they already identify with, [and] will be interested in reaching out to organizations or groups that are different from them. And that, together, they would form a coalition and try to promote better conditions on campus.”
Carrig said that she put the event together, because she noticed that students are quite segregated into their own in-groups on campus, whether they think they are or not. The follow-up event in February is designed to encourage those present to take action, knowing that the discussion is not over. One-time events frequently result in people falling back into their usual patterns, but with another “Brown is the New White” meeting in the future, organizers hold out hope that real change will take place.
The follow-up event will take place on Feb. 7 of next year.