Wentworth Roundtable: A Discussion on Race - Part III

June 29, 2020

Portraits of different people

Clockwise from top left: Nakisa Alborz, Alex Cabal, Rebecca Drossman, David Simpson and Aaron Carpenter

The following is Part III of our discussion with Nakisa Alborz, David Simpson, Alex Cabal, Rebecca Drossman and Aaron Carpenter. Part I and Part II are also online.

Greg Abazorius, Director, Content: You’ve all talked about expression and making oneself heard. Do you think that’s easier or harder when you are being quarantined and have to do it remotely?

Aaron Carpenter, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: I think [quarantine] is one of the reasons this movement feels different right now. We were already so tired and beaten down. And especially Black communities that were already getting hit harder by COVID-19 in terms of the impact it was having medically or financially, everyone was already so tired.

It’s much easier when you’re on campus to see that person in the hall and have a chance to vent. But with video chats, it’s really easy for me to ask how people are doing and open myself up. Things definitely feel different right now in a way that wouldn’t exist if we weren’t all experiencing this pandemic.

Greg Abazorius: What advice do you give to students who want to make their voices heard and maybe protest the injustices they see? Especially when there is also a deadly virus to worry about?

David Simpson, Assistant Professor, Department of Interdisciplinary Engineering: I’ll say that there’s multiple ways to get involved. Even if you’re not out on the streets with a sign, you could go on social media and every fourth post you’ll see ways you can help, whether it’s donating money or reading particular resources, interacting with your friends of color. And just having a discussion. The issue of racial injustice doesn't even have to come up. You can just kind of have a discussion and talk, and if it comes up, be willing to listen. If you want to go out and protest, I say, do it, I am not going to condemn any type of protest.

There's thousands upon thousands of people who are truly angry and fed up. They need people to hear them, to understand them and to work with them as an accomplice to create change.

Alex Cabal, Director, Center for Diversity and Social Justice Programs: My advice would be to do what feels right to you at the moment. This happened to me last weekend. I want to be out there, but I also have to think about how I have two small children. I think a lot of us are struggling with that type of dilemma. There are going to be different opportunities to be more active. And like David says, a quick check-in with a friend, a quick email or social media post, or donating. It’s also great to sign up with different listservs to get information from different organizations. So there are ways to also get involved virtually.

Aaron Carpenter: Engage in the conversation. That doesn’t mean you have to necessarily be the center point of the conversation or drive it. There are people who are there to listen and they’re at different points in their education, their self-work. And that’s fine, but don’t disengage. Especially for white folks like me, you have to be paying close attention to your social feeds. You can't scroll by that comment that was racist and hope somebody else is going to handle it, because who's going to handle it is the Black or Brown or other marginalized person. And that's just adding to the burden. And so it’s going to be uncomfortable. As Alex says all the time, this kind of work has to be uncomfortable.

But in terms of safety, there's a difference between your mental discomfort and your physical discomfort. Make sure that if you are at risk or you have an underlying condition or something like that for health reasons, or you've got family members you have to take care of, stay home, find other ways to engage, but don't tune it out. This is not the time to tune out.

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