By Micaela Itona
Finish this sentence. “I am …”
Most would identify themselves right away with a cultural, ethnic, or racial identity. The way we come to identify with a race, accept a culture, and interact with the diversity in our lives was the main discussion at Lambda Tau Omega’s “Let’s Talk About Racism in Education.” As part of NJIT’s Black Heritage Month, the Lambda Tau Omega sorority hosted a presentation on February 10 with keynote speaker Marie Hinds, president of the sorority.
Much of the presentation was spent covering the psychological processes of how humans are socialized to think and interact with the idea of race- first realizing that we are different from others, next, the ways in which we tessellate our ethnicity, personality and experiences to create an identity. Many rifts and issues arise when we attempt to fit in with those around us, however. This is where Hinds opened up the presentation as a platform for a huge group discussion – people of various ethnic and racial identities were present, sharing stories about what it was like to participate in an overarching society as a person of color. Ranging from participation in sports to interning at Google, everyone had a story to tell about a time in which their experience was markedly different because of their racial identity.
Hinds used statistics and social phenomena in coordination with the discussion, for example, pointing out that in early education, minorities typically do not get placed into higher level classes. Related social phenomena and parallel experiences reflect the institutional and systemic racism in American society today, making the experiences of minorities in the educational system of America more valuable in discussions of race and diversity at events like this one.
Each attendant was handed an index card, on which he or she was asked to finish the sentence, “I am…”. It was true that many identified with a particular culture or race. At a community as diverse as the NJIT campus, respecting and trying to understand each other’s experiences and perspectives is something we should all strive for.
More events part of NJIT’s Black Heritage Month can be found at http://www5.njit.edu/diversityprograms/events/ .