Confronting Racism

Group Discussion

Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Screening, discussion tackle charged issue in wake of recent controversy

The Dickinson community came together on Tuesday, Oct. 31, to discuss a recent controversy on campus and the next steps toward building a more inclusive community.

The event began with a screening of Ethnic Notions, an Emmy-winning 1986 documentary tracing the history of African-American stereotypes in American popular culture. Small-group discussions about the film and its relevance to recent racial events at Dickinson and across the nation followed.

The screening is the college’s second response to an offensive photo, posted last weekend on social media, of a student in a Halloween costume depicting social activist and former professional football player Colin Kaepernick. At the top-right corner of the photo was a toy gun that appeared to be pointed at the student. An investigation into the matter is underway.

On Monday, Dickinson issued a statement asserting that the photo is offensive; that weapons, real or fake, are prohibited on campus; and that Dickinson upholds values of inclusivity, civil dialog and cross-cultural understanding. The Tuesday film screening and discussions provided historical context to the issue and a framework for peer-to-peer communication.

Vincent Stephens, director of the Popel Shaw Center for Race & Ethnicity, screened the film, and he and fellow staff members and social justice peer educators led the small-group discussions.

“This is a place where we can all talk and be heard, and my hope is that you will all come away from this with a deeper understanding of why these images can be disturbing to members of our community,” Stephens said. “Our hope is that this is a catalyst for more conversation to come.”

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Published November 1, 2017