The first of two dialogues using film to discuss issues of social justice started on Tuesday at the EUC, formally known as Reel Talk. A collaboration project between the Office of Intercultural Engagement, Campus Activities & Programs and Housing & Residence Life, Reel Talk comes to UNCG with the goal of starting dialogues in the campus community using contemporary film to discuss how UNCG students view identity and intersectionality.
The film of the evening used to kickstart the event was none other than Jordan Peele’s breakout hit thriller, “Get Out.” The movie is based on modern-day racial tensions caused by issues of appropriation and micro-aggressions from white Americans towards African-Americans.
“We wanted to use [Get Out] as a prompt to engage folks to start a conversation around different identities, how students see that on campus, racial identity as a difference and how to engage in meaning conversations about these topics,” said host Carla Fullwood, of the Office of Intercultural Engagement, on what was meant to be gained from the evening talk.
The event started with clips from the prologue of “Get Out” displaying the hapless victim Andre Hayworth, played by LaKeith Stanfield, trying to navigate his way through dangerous and unfamiliar territory: white suburbia. Andre’s rising anxiety lead to a thoughtful discussion among numerous groups in the EUC Maple room on what exactly does it feel like being seen as “the outsider” in a new land among those you do not resemble.
With numerous group tables each led by their own discussion moderator, questions soon focused on what exactly the difference is between appreciating another culture and the appropriation of one to the myriad of ways that people may try to assimilate into different groups and cliques.
“Looking at race and some of the challenges that exist in having difficult conversations about race, we thought that this film would at least help open those doors and learn how to unpack that,” Fullwood said. “[We are] not only looking at intimate interracial relationships but also interracial friendships and developing intercultural learning through having conversations on the theme of the film.”
Going deeper into the idea of cultural appropriation and high profile cases of it in modern times, UNCG students brought up comparisons between how one can appreciate culture without being derided as a “culture vulture.” Examples ranged from rapper Eminem’s respect and acknowledgment of his urban upbringing to debutantes like Kylie Jenner and Miley Cyrus using mainstays of black culture such as cornrows and southern trap music as trends to be bought and sold to white audiences that would not be so receptive seeing such on black bodies.
Further clips include main character Chris Washington, played by Daniel Kaluuya, being examined and questioned at an outdoor get-together by friends of the Armitage, the peculiar family of which Rose, played by Allison Williams, belongs to. Comments from upper-crust white bourgeois types range from awkward compliments on Chris’ genetic makeup to his presumed sexual prowess with one party-goer exclaiming “black is in vogue these days!” This provided the right segue into talking about what it means to be stereotyped and sometimes even fetishized as someone of a different race.
As the afternoon turned into evening, students of all races at the dinner chimed in on their thoughts as to how “Get Out” helps explain concepts of identity and micro-aggressions to a wider populace.
“The goal is to explore at least [social justice] twice a semester and see what the response is from students on if this is a good opportunity to engage in conversations around these topics,” Fullwood said.
A feeling was shared amongst the room — that while there may not be easy answers for America’s racial tensions, important conversations began and can now be expanded upon in future discussions.
UNC Greensboro is frequently complimented on its diverse student population, with 43 percent of students being ethnic minorities according to UNCG’s fall 2016 admissions statistics. Having an inclusive student populace makes it even more important to engage in meaningful conversations, so that the many racial groups on campus can more easily understand and empathize with each other in numerous situations. Reel Talk will return with its second and final discussion of the 2017 fall semester on Oct. 17.