Dr. Marilyn Sanders Mobley, vice president for the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity for Case Western Reserve University, discussed racism, microaggression and identity erasure to a crowd of about 100 attentive viewers at the Student Union Theatre Wednesday night.
Mobley’s event, organized by Residential Life, delved into a social issue she refers to as “the paradox of race talk in America.” This paradox, Mobley said, is formed when people don’t pay attention to race and subsequently impede its progression.
“The fact we have this paradox is why I refer to this as the nation’s unfinished business,” Mobley said. “We haven’t been educated on it, learned how to value it and we have not been brave enough to talk about it.”
“You have to be uncomfortable to get through hard stuff,” Mobley said. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress...Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”
In her discussion, Mobley shared three expressions that she said hinder the progression of equality.
Mobley first dissected the phrase, “When I see you, I don’t see race.” Mobley denounced this saying for being an expression of denial.
“A person of color, nine times out of 10 times, does not see it as a compliment but a microaggression,” Mobley said.
The next misunderstood expression was, “Focusing on race is focusing on identity politics.” Mobley refuted this by saying there is no way to eliminate identity politics. She said its presence is seen through our recent election, our communities and the “DNA of America” as a whole.
Mobley then addressed the phrase, “There’s only one race: the human race.” Mobley said the effect of this statement only goes to silence race talk.
“It’s a way of saying, ‘I don’t wanna hear what you wanna say,’” Mobley said.
Finally, Mobley focused on the saying, “Diversity is not just race...it’s so much more.”
“The people who utter these words are guilty of yet another microaggression,” Mobley said. “It’s a telltale sign of racial bias. Race talk makes people uncomfortable.”
Christian Near, fourth-semester physiology and neurobiology major, said he found Mobley’s speech methods to be compelling.
“She had a lot of topics people tend to skip over or brush under the rug. She brought a lot of those issues to life,” Near said. “She paralleled her university and what other universities do with race makes you think, ‘Hey, this would be beneficial here.’”
Omaniel Ortiz, a fourth-semester allied health major, found that Mobley’s topics resonated with his experience at UConn on a personal level.
“I like the way she was blunt. I’m a minority and coming to UConn as a minority was a culture shock and I think people don’t realize (minorities) might seem like they are happy but there may be problems you don’t know about,” Ortiz said. “I just wish more people showed up.”
Lillian Whittaker is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.