Posted by: Jacqueline Perez, MSW '11:
The conference started with a remarkable speech by Julian Bond, social activist and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. It was a great way to get the event started! He presented in a large auditorium in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall where war veterans are commemorated. A huge banner with the words, “Race in America”, covered a wall with a passage that spoke of the Civil War. The juxtaposition of having this banner ascend over words such as “all men are created equal” was breathtaking. At that moment I immediately felt excited about this conference!
Mr. Bond eloquently spoke of American history and connected it to society today. He spoke of our country’s youth and the history of slavery. From his personal story of having enslaved grandparents to the more recent civil rights movements. It was not until 4 decades ago that African Americans truly attained their rights as citizens of this county. Forty years! And then, post 1968, the issue of race somehow shifted. The oppressors suddenly became the oppressed and the white population became a victim of the racial divide. The Supreme Court deemed the topic of race as unjustifiable reason to change legislation to solve social inequalities. Suddenly race was longer an issue in U.S. politics. However, this was obviously not the case! Personally, I lived and felt the class and racial inequities as I traveled to and from HS everyday. A world of comfort, cleanliness, and education that filled the air in Pacific Palisades was a world foreign to the dangerous, boisterous, and dirty streets I’ve always known in South Central LA. Also to prove the contrary, Mr. Bond provided significant statistics that illustrate racial disparities in education, wealth and the criminal justice system. Today, the intersectionality of race and class is no coincidence.
As a sat there listening to him speak I felt so fortunate to be in a room full of people that place race at the forefront of conversations. However, I also pondered how a room full of people opposing these thoughts would look like. Mr. Bond noted an increase of white supremacists groups since the elections in 2008 and that racism is still in fact very prevalent. Thus, the importance of a conference on race is clear and I look forward to the next couple of days!