Students, faculty and staff gathered in Hostetter Chapel on Monday night for the first event in a two-part series discussion regarding American racial history, excessive police force and Black Lives Matter.
The series is co-sponsored by Human Rights Awareness and the Black Student Union. Its purpose is to critically examine current issues in society as well as the Christian response to those issues.
“We were responding to viral incidents that took place earlier in the semester,” said Human Rights Awareness Director Alana Anthony. “We usually try to highlight one of the main human rights topics that are emerging at the time.”
Monday night’s event featured Dr. Andrew Hart, professor of theology, who spoke about how and why the Black Lives Matter movement began.
He prefaced the discussion with what he calls a “thicker” definition of racism that addresses what racism does in society as a whole rather than how it affects individual people.
“I think about racism, from a sociological standpoint, as a system that we are socialized into, and it socializes our identity, our practices and how we make sense of ourselves,” Hart said.
Hart talked about American racial history including slavery, black codes, the convict leasing system and lynching to make the audience aware of some of the horrors that may have been left out of their high school history classes.
He also mentioned the war on drugs that began in the 1970s and the emergence of mass incarceration throughout that time. Hart said police have targeted black communities and that most of the arrests are from non-violent drug offenses.
He also talked about incidents through which black individuals, including Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, have been harmed or killed as a result of racism and “injustice in our society.”
“Imagine leaving your home and constantly being humiliated, cussed at, roughed up and not feeling safe. This is what’s happening in many black or brown inner city communities in our country,” said Hart.
Hart said one response Christians can have towards recent incidents is to seek first the reign of God by immersing themselves in the story of Jesus since Christ identified with those who are oppressed and hurting.
Hart’s talk was followed by a brief Q&A with audience members before they broke into small groups to discuss their thoughts on what Hart had said and the recent events in America. The small group discussions were facilitated by various faculty and staff.
“I’m just very appreciative of how involved faculty have been. They really make or break our events. They get people aware of what’s happening,” said Anthony.
The second part of the series will take place in Hostetter Chapel on this Wednesday night at 7 p.m.