KENTtalks fosters discussion on race relations at Kent State

Payton Moore

More than 50 people gathered in the Student Center on Tuesday and demanded that change be made in the way race is perceived on campus.

Those that attended the KENTtalks discussion focused the conversation on race relations, and how different races face challenges at Kent State and in their hometowns.

E. Timothy Moore, associate professor emeritus of Pan-African Studies and assistant dean emeritus of the College of Arts and Sciences, led the discussion, opening the event by requesting that those in the room stand if they were of color. When predominantly white people remained sitting, he said, “White is a color. I’m an art major, duh! This is why we need some serious dialogue.”

Sophomore broadcast journalism major Savanna McCarthy was a student who spoke the event. She told her story of bias in the newsroom and how she was removed from a story she cared deeply about to protect news bias. From that experience, she realized she wanted to work for a black media outlet.

“I am in an all-male, particularly white field,” McCarthy said. “Often I’ve been questioned if I’m in my field because of my work ethic or because of the color of my skin. Not only do I have to fight against those who don’t think I have the work ethic, but fight against the color I wasn’t able to choose.”

McCarthy explained how she felt victimized by racial slurs said to her during her first semester on campus.

Senior communication studies major Brie Jutte spoke about her experience coming from a small, mainly white hometown to a campus where many ethnicities flourish.

“I was able to be a Flashguide one summer, and me and some of my teammates were hanging out and I was the only white person in that group,” Jutte said. “I realized in that moment that’s how students of color may feel every day in their classes.”

Jutte also described the disappointment in herself for not participating in the march on campus after the Ferguson decision was made.

The term “melting pot” was also brought up in discussion, referring to the diverse culture of the United States, and some in attendance challenged if that truly is the correct term for the U.S. to identify with. Some attendees referred to different cultures, instead, as a salad bowl. This prompted one man to say there was “a whole lot of lettuce,” referring to how unmixed the “salad” of society actually appears.

In the heat of the melting pot, where does the term minority stem from? Some students spoke of the categorization of people and how the word minority bothers them.

“Once I arrived here, I was forced to adopt a wide range of titles I had no idea what they meant,” sophomore communication studies major Natalia Roman said. “Now, I have titles to categorize me as something else, something easier, something to save you the effort to learn the unique history that runs in my blood.”

One student asked those in the room their opinions on AALANA, a diversity-initiated program seeking to represent individuals of African-American, Latino American and Native American descent. Many said they felt obligated to say they wish the university would not categorize them and make them feel less significant than European-Americans or Asian-Americans.

One student spoke to the audience about his troubles with Kent State as a whole. He told the group he would never recommend this university to friends or prospective students. Following him, several others stood, some crying, and talked about why they would never come to Kent State if they knew the indecencies that would be projected towards them for being of color.

One of those students was Marvin Logan, executive director of Undergraduate Student Government.

He told the students in the room that nobody had more power than the students sitting in that room with him.

“The whole reason I ran for office was because I spent four years dealing with the worst experiences of my life,” Logan said. “I thought the best way for me to do something about it was to rise to the highest position of power I could and make a difference, and even then people look back at me and say our experience doesn’t matter.”

He called for action among students, telling them that despite the sacrifices they’ve made for Kent State, they must create a space for themselves that others can benefit from.

“We have to realize the opportunity we have here,” he said. “As we said earlier, (college) is a micro-chasm of the world, and you will never be in a better position for the rest of your life to be in a position of change. You will never be this close to decision making.”

Contact Payton Moore at [email protected].