Community leaders bring discussions of systematic racism to campus

More than 400 students, faculty and administrators gathered during the DREAM Collective’s hosted forum, entitled Dismantling Institutionalized Racism in Higher Education.

In a statement put out by the newly formed DREAM Collective, the group said their efforts are concentrated upon identifying and addressing racial issues that arise throughout the entire education system.

“By supporting community members, educational organizations, and professionals in the process of naming, addressing and dismantling racism through education, advocacy, and mobilization, we seek to engage in well-established practices of collective efforts to dismantle white supremacy through transformative sociopolitical and institutional change,” the statement said.

The DREAM Collective hosted an open forum on Thursday, June 12 via Zoom to discuss measures to dismantle institutionalized racism.

Moderated by Nate Williams, an incoming assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, a group of panelists came together to enlighten the attendees with their views on how to achieve racial equality throughout the education system.

Educators and administrators across the country made up those who spoke during the meeting. Director of ACCESS Dominic Dorsey and Timothy Lewis, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, were included in the group of speakers.

Each panelist was asked for their own views and solutions to systemic racism in education.

At one point, Lewis spoke on his role as an educator in combating white supremacy. Lewis said he does so by exposing his students, who are predominantly white, to lessons they might not have previously covered. For example, Lewis covers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter written in 1963 from Birmingham Jail.

“I use this reading to show that privilege allows you to exist in a world where the law and the application of the law favor you,” Lewis said.

According to Lewis, King wrote the letter after being arrested for marching without a license. Lewis said he would explain to his students how the privilege they have allows them to march, as King did, without having to fear facing the consequences he did.

During the panel, Dorsey discussed a recent incident when he was asked to delete a comment he left on SIUE’s Facebook page.

A picture of the Quad’s Rock, spray painted with the words Black Lives Matter by students, was posted on social media. Some commenters responded by hurling insults at the movement and the Black community. A number of these comments contained blatantly racist messaging, including one that compared African Americans to monkeys.

“Thanks for the opportunity to screenshot another racist,” Dorsey wrote in response to one such comment.

Dorsey was then contacted by SIUE’s social media to take the post down, saying they don’t allow name calling or personal attacks. During the panel, Dorsey said he found it hypocritical that comments like the anti-BLM posts usually result in firings, while his were the ones targeted in this case.

Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership J.T. Snipes, one of the members of the DREAM Collective, revealed some details regarding the group’s intentions for the future.

“We’re going to continue a conversation around what it looks like to make an institution or to create an institution that is more socially just,” Snipes said.

Part of their futures plans, according to Snipes, includes another meeting on Friday, June 26 with guest speaker Lawanda Ward, of Penn State University. This will be open to the public, with viewers given the ability to once again have their questions heard. Those interested can sign up at bitly.ws/8Q2T.

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