Students, professors at SUNY Oswego teach-in offer insight on racism

A simple but powerful program is being promoted around SUNY Oswego. Photo by Mitchell Petrella

OSWEGO, N.Y.- SUNY Oswego started its new spring series titled Race Place Being this past week. The program aims to create dialogue about race in today’s world. There are a number of different platforms to have the dialogue and include: film screenings, exhibitions, live performances, and art galleries.

At the teach-in located in the Sheldon Hall Ballroom, professors and students interacted with each other in an open forum to discuss various topics such as police attitudes towards different races and the severity of the racial divide in America. These discussions centered around the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City by the police. Students and community members alike filled over half of the seats in the ballroom. Before the panel discussions, Dr. Dennis Parsons of SUNY Oswego performed a short musical piece titled “Not Today” to set the mood.

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Students had the chance to listen to four speakers starting with history professor Dr. Ken Marshall. He offered insight about slavery correlating to police violence against black males. Once finished, students were invited to ask questions or present their own opinions on the subject. Marshall took four questions from students who asked how racial profiling by police can stop.

Dr. Ken Marshall providing a narrative of life as a black man throughout history. Photo by Mitchell Petrella

The next speaker was Dr. Lindsay Bell of the Anthropology Department at SUNY Oswego. There was more interaction with the students as she discussed culture surrounding race relations. Bell noted that social media has a large impact on behavior in general. When responding, students used examples from the popular application Yik Yak, which allows anyone to post anonymously. “When students were protesting in the Campus Center, people using Yik Yak referred to the protest as ‘Planet of the Apes III,” One student said. Why is there a culture of hate?”




Dr. Lindsay Bell Photo by Mitchell Petrella
Dr. Lindsay Bell responds to a question.
Photo by Mitchell Petrella

Following Bell, SUNY Oswego student Christopher Collins-McNeil explained how social media and social activism can go hand in hand. He praised the student body and school President Deborah Stanley for organizing a march around campus last semester protesting the Ferguson and New York City decisions. Staying active around campus and discussing social issues needs to continue, Collins-McNeil said.

Student Christopher Collins-McNeil calls on students to be more active on campus.
Student Christopher Collins-McNeil calls on students to be more active on campus. Photo by Mitchell Petrella

The last panelist was Dr. David Moody of the Communications Department. Moody’s discussion was centered on images and online conversations concerning racism. Students had the opportunity to share their experiences on social media and Moody provided screenshots of comments regarding hate speech in news articles.

Dr. Moody presents "Is there a racial divide in America?"
Dr. Moody presents “Is there a racial divide in America?” Photo by Mitchell Petrella

After the speakers were finished,  there was an opportunity for students to further engage speakers in a small group setting. Using Facebook to plan events like the teach-in is a good idea, said student Roger Greenidge.

In addition to sociology, anthropology can play a role in discussions about race as well said student Casey Capstick.

The SUNY Oswego Race Place Being series runs throughout the spring semester and has events at the college as well as Syracuse University and downtown Syracuse. The list for Race Place Being contains more information regarding future and past events.