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October 26, 2012

OMSA convo brings "race out loud"

Segregation, interracial families, and how to discuss race and ethnicity were topics at a community conversation featuring reporter Natalie Moore.

Moore, a contributor to WBEZ’s “Race Out Loud” radio and web series, highlighted snippets from stories broadcast throughout the summer, including a segment on segregated schools in Chicago.

She also played part of the documentary Mike and Victor: A Family Story, about a 25-year-old white man named Mike Checuga who fostered and eventually adopted a 10-year-old black boy he had grown close to through volunteering at a local church.

Other stories addressed people mistaken for others of the same race as well as the implicit and explicit segregation in the Chicago nightlife scene.

Moore also spoke about the process of creating the series, including the setbacks she faced. “I am the only black reporter on the air,” she said of WBEZ. “A lack of diversity in your own newsroom can impact the kind of work you do.”

Following Moore’s presentation, students were split into groups to discuss their reactions to the series and current racial issues on campus.

Students spoke about their own experiences with race. Some talked about the difficulty of entering a new environment in which the racial makeup is drastically different from one’s hometown.

“[As a black student] I’m used to crossing that cultural bridge,” said third-year Clarence Okoh from Birmingham, Alabama. “But many people are not used to going from seeing yourself everywhere to seeing yourself rarely.”

Students also discussed the need for more conversation on campus about race. Many agreed that the intellectual nature of the University often prevents students from engaging in applicable and productive discussions on race and other sensitive social issues, especially when they aren’t sure of the right thing to say or even how to approach the topic.

“People are so reluctant to admit what they don’t know,” said second-year Alex Halladay, a discussion coordinator. “It’s okay to not be correct. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know.’”

The event, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, is the inaugural “Emerging Minds Project Community Conversation” of the year.

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