The USC chapter of Black Campus Ministries hosted a panel Wednesday evening, “Ask a Black Person,” which aimed at promoting greater awareness of the black community.
The event was held in celebration of Black History Month and topics ranged from racial identity to the underrepresentation of black students at USC.
Members of the BCM gathered the anonymous questions from students near Tommy Trojan on Monday and Tuesday.
Members of the panel included seven students who identified themselves differently across a variety of racial groups. Adaobi Ugoagu, a junior majoring in anthropology who helped organize the event, hoped that it would further understanding on campus.
“We want to promote racial reconciliation on the campus and cross-cultural understanding across the black people on this campus with other races,” she said.
Moderator Jillian Baker, a sophomore majoring in communication and African American studies, cautioned that the discussion did not define the views of a majority of black students.
“Just a disclaimer, as seven black people, we do not represent the opinions of every black person,” she said. “These are just our opinions on how we view the black community.”
Many questions focused on differences between varying races. In response to a question about what values black people have, panelist Jerome Campbell focused on the unifying characteristics of the two communities.
“I think it’s really easy to look at black culture and say it’s something completely different,” Campbell said. “You watch TV [and] you see hip hop, you see prison, you see gangs, and it’s almost like black culture is it’s own thing that’s separate from the rest of America. And that’s just not true. We want all the same things as any other American: to be treated the same, to not feel judged when you walk into a room, to walk into a room and not feel like you’re the only person representing your race.”
Other questions touched on the role of black students USC and their respective representation. One question asked whether students felt that the campus was an accepting area for black students.
Panelist Rachael Caulker stated that her experiences in the classroom sometimes reflected a lack of understanding on campus.
“You just realize that it’s not because people don’t want to work with you necessarily, it’s because of the fact that they unfortunately do not feel comfortable around you,” she said. “I think it’s a comfort sort of thing and people generally go to their own ethnicities.”
Panelist Akeallah Blair also spoke of her experiences living with her three white roommates. She stated that she would sometimes hear racially insensitive comments.
“What I realize is that it’s not coming from a bad place, it’s just how they were raised and how they think things are,” Blair said. “ I realize that I didn’t come here to fight this racism battle, I came here to get my education.”
Students felt that the event was informative and highlighted issues that are not often discussed on campus.
“Seeing people who are just like me going through these different issues of perception or issues of cultural clash and racial profiling, things that are very serious but that are overlooked in light of things that are more immediate, like midterms and whatnot, that was a really cool way to get my brain working in a different sense,” said Wendy Wu, a sophomore majoring in business and accounting.
Aaron Ashby, a freshman majoring in film and TV production, agreed that the event was helpful in contributing to conversations about racism.
“I think the goal was to get people to ask questions that they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking,” Ashby said. “I think it was really good to open up dialogue to people who don’t feel comfortable with that conversation.”