In remembrance of the 50th anniversary of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, National Geographic recently published “The Race Issue,” an issue of the publication exclusively dedicated to discussing race in the United States.
The issue is the first in a series called “Diversity in America,” which will highlight different racial, ethnic and religious groups in the United States, according to a National Geographic press release.
The issue includes features about historically black colleges, interracial marriage, fraternal twins who appear to be different races and a photo gallery of streets across America named after Dr. King. Articles about race as a social construct, anxiety on the part of white people in response to growing conversation about race in the country and racial profiling are also featured, according to the press release
Dr. Willena Price, director of the African American Cultural Center at the University of Connecticut, said that when the Obama administration began in 2009, it appeared that opportunities for African Americans were improving, but in the current political climate, racial issues seem to be at the forefront of many conversations.
“I think [this publication] is critically important at this time in our American culture, and not just American culture, but our global culture,” Price said. “There’s so much to talk about and to discuss related to race and racial issues.”
Price said that having grown up in the South during the time of segregation, she feels it is important to acknowledge how problems of racial inequality have changed and how they can continue to improve.
“I can remember as a girl growing up in the deep south, race was what everyone talked about because that was during the time of segregation. Black and white issues were huge in Atlanta, Georgia, where I’m from. Everything was segregated. African Americans were thought of as second or third class citizens,” Price said. “Now fast forward to where we are right now. There’s so much angst and so much discord and so much disrespect that we see every single day. We look at the news, and we hear so much about people just not caring about each other.”
PhD student and sociology teaching assistant Rhys Hall said he feels that while it is important to shed light on race issues, it should be an ongoing conversation rather than a “special” topic in a publication. However, he added that he believes calling attention to issues that have been affecting people for an extended period of time is a good start
“I think magazine issues like these hold a special place as it puts these issues at the forefront of visibility in publications; it’s no longer a side issue,” Hall said. “I have qualms with marginalized community issues being framed as ‘special issues’ that garner literal ‘special magazine issues’ such as these, as I think it has a tendency of making it so every group has their turn, so to speak. But at the same time, I also recognize notions of progress for having meaning. Having more people read about matters is a good thing, especially since the folks impacted have been speaking about them for years.”
Price said she feels publications and other forms of media that raise awareness about social issues are one of the most effective ways to combat inequality in our society.
“I think one of the biggest issues that we have is that we sometimes don’t show a willingness to embrace otherness,” Price said. “If you take the time to understand more about people, what they’re going through, we could be such a better world.”
Hall said he believes awareness and education are great tools, but a critical approach to reducing inequality is necessary to make progress.
“Often, we, the mass readers, are fed data that isn’t properly vetted, doesn’t feature adequate contributions from scholarly or communal voices and lacks interrogation of social systems in play that help create or facilitate unequal outcomes,” Hall said. “[We need to be] using terms such as ‘white supremacy,’ ‘misogyny,’ ‘power systems’ and the like more often, citing literature when committing to a standard of intersectionality, and rethinking our engagement with diversity or inclusion.”
Price said she feels there is a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion at the university. She added that the highest offices of the university work to make sure that everyone here is provided with resources and opportunities and that diversity remains valued at UConn.
Price said she believes that when students come to UConn, it is important for them to be met with a diverse and accepting environment. Price added that students from less diverse neighborhoods are able to learn about new cultures and meet people they otherwise may never have while at the university.
“What we must continue to have is a commitment to diversity from the highest levels of the university,” Price said. “What really makes UConn exceptional is that we have a commitment from our president, from our trustees and from the highest administration offices who believe in diversity and who do everything to support and make sure we have the resources we need and to be sure that we are perpetuating a wonderful climate for all of our students.”
The African American Cultural Center, one of the five cultural centers in the Student Union dedicated to diversity and creating cultural awareness, will celebrate its 50th anniversary later this year. Price said that the center is affiliated with more than 30 student organizations, offers classes and holds many events on campus, including a recent all-day Dr. King-related movie event on April 4, the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.
The center is open until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 9 p.m. on Fridays, Price said.
Miranda Garcia is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.