by Lorcan McKillop

On Monday, February 13th at 3 p.m. in the Duquesne University Power Center Ballroom, I attended President Ken Gormley’s series on civil discourse: Racial and Cultural Understanding in a New Era. This series of panels is relevant to what has been covered and discussed in class as issues of inequality, adversity, and the call to adapt to a more equal, modern society serve as ties between the course content and the topics of the series.

In Yeonmi Park’s memoir In Order to Live, Park says that “without the whole truth, my life would have no power, no real meaning.” Without the full knowledge of our own society and government’s current realities, it remains difficult to discern exactly what power the people of this nation do have. The need to keep citizens informed regarding affairs of national significance in itself identifies the importance of the discussion at the panel. However, for an event of such importance, there was almost too much ground set to cover in the designated hour and a half. While many important issues were discussed, the best way to describe the event is that it was ambitious. The event encompassed an introductory speech by President Gormley, two sets of opening remarks, a panel discussion on race and police, and a second panel discussion on Muslims, immigration, and the “American Dream.”

Whilst race and police and immigration are prevalent matters on a national level, attempting to host two in-depth panels that get into the nitty-gritty of each topic would require far longer than the allotted hour and a half. In the time that was allowed however, the panel did its best to produce intriguing debate and discussion by using another theme that overlaps with Park’s work: Adversity creates identity. Several members in the panel had dealt with matters in police brutality and the newer issues of immigration first hand, and the established identity of these individuals has given them license to critique the system; endurance gives your words substance.

In the panel on race and police, the superintendent of the Allegheny County Police Department did his best to shed light on the issue of racial bias within law enforcement from both perspectives, recognizing that it is part of his duty to “protect his own” whilst at the same time attempting to “make progress weeding out the bad apples.” The conclusion that I was able to take away from the panel’s discussion is that police integrity should not be compromised, and that there is a need to be vigilant not to approach and arrest citizens solely based on racial bias.

The panel on Muslims, Immigration, and the “American Dream” focused on the United States’ immigration policy during an age of terrorism, and whether or not there is a double standard regarding which populations have been punished for such acts of terror. The question was raised as to why Timothy McVay’s actions have not been followed by a push to expel white men from this country, evidently suggesting that the pushing for Muslim expulsion is a drastic step to be taken for the actions of a fraction of the given population. The take-away message from the second panel discussion was that despite the need to take additional steps regarding open borders and national security, “Freedom to All” is still a major foundation on which this country was built, and must be a mainstay should the United States hope to maintain this identity.

Whilst both panels left the attendees with important takeaway messages, there was still an overarching feeling as though too much ground was left uncovered. Both issues discussed are indeed comprehensive, and it would take a number of panels and discussions to even begin to fully encompass the two topics.

For more information on racial bias and racial and cultural understanding within law enforcement:

http://www.civilrights.org/publications/justice-on-trial/race.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
http://www.tolerance.org/racism-and-police-violence

For more information on racial and cultural understanding regarding immigration policy and open borders:

http://fortune.com/2016/04/17/immigration-open-borders/
http://www.cfr.org/immigration/us-immigration-debate/p11149
http://prospect.org/article/great-immigration-debate

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