Speaker encourages conversations about racism, promotes student activism


Eileen Martin/ Guilfordian

There’s an elephant in the room, and its name is racism.

“It is painful and difficult (to talk about),” said Visiting Instructor of Justice and Policy Studies Daniel Rhodes. “People want to ignore it and sweep it away. White people don’t want to talk about racism because they are afraid that they are going to say something wrong and be accused of being racist.”

On Nov. 6, Luellen Curry, a faculty member from Wake Forest University School of Law, came to Guilford College to speak on racism, justice and the legal system.

The presentation was organized by Karen Tinsley, associate professor of psychology and chair of both Interdisciplinary Studies and African American Studies.

Curry wanted audience members to feel comfortable talking about race. She encouraged them to go out into the community and discuss this sensitive and complex issue.

“We need to do this because that is the only way we will start to resolve this conflict,” said Curry.

The main point of the event was to offer the community a space to learn how to deal with the serious issues of racism and the legal system. Tinsley also wanted the community to have the chance to continue discussing the Trayvon Martin case in depth.

“I wanted people to be aware of the issues of racism and the legal system, to not just sweep the case of Trayvon Martin under the rug,” said Tinsley. “Having an open positive forum about race, violence and its legal implications from an interdisciplinary perspective will lead to finding creative ways of different disciplines (understanding) the issues.”

Curry addressed these issues with regard to the recent Trayvon Martin case and how George Zimmerman may have gotten away with murder.

“Race has to be part of the content,” said Curry. “Zimmerman himself admitted that it was race-related. The judge didn’t consider racial profiling as part of the trial. This innocent young man did not do anything wrong. He was walking home, and then he ended up dead.”

After the event, many walked away with positive attitudes towards discussing racism and how to make a change.

“I thought the event was interesting,” said senior Mary Heisey. “It was nice to see Guilford professors understand the need to look at these issues with an interdisciplinary approach.”

Sophomore Kelli Uresti left feeling eager to continue the conversation.

“(Curry) definitely made me think, ‘What am I doing to help this?’” said Uresti. “I hope to be an agent of change to our community … it inspired me to get active in pursing equality.”

Although the presentation is over the conversation about race is not.

“Guilford is a great place that has its core values and rich history of the Underground Railroad,” said senior Jonathan Yatsky.

“If we are truly going to change racism in the world, we … must be willing to change our ways of thinking to embrace one another for our differences and come from a place of understanding. Then we can truly accept other cultures.”