On Mar 5., NYU Shanghai conducted a forum on the topic of racism, accompanied by a panel of expert speakers. In collaboration with the student-led debate club The Collective Voice, the Humanities Department organized the event after a successful discussion on the Hong Kong demonstrations last semester. The forum was intended to bring together the ideas of faculty, students and guest speakers to ignite discussion surrounding the ideas of white privilege, the Eric Garner case in the U.S. and the way in which racism is exhibited differently around the world.
The forum started with an introduction from Monroe France; the Assistant Vice President for Student Diversity at NYU. In France’s introduction, he defined the terms colorism, internalization, prejudice, bias and white supremacy. These terms were able to lead the audience into a discussion surrounding their experiences of these concepts, both in their respective communities, and at NYU Shanghai. Between several rounds of discussion — which was primarily conducted by students, rather than faculty — personal accounts of prejudice and racism were given, by select members of the audience.
Sophomore Kevin Akinfolarin had a contrasting account of his experiences in California, U.S.A., and in China. His account started with a story of the summer before he started at NYU Shanghai. Ultimately, he spoke of the fear that he felt and the way in which it subsided after his move to China – and after becoming a part of the NYU Shanghai community. Akinfolarin was then followed by Global Academic Fellow Maxi-Ann Campbell, who spoke of instances of prejudice and racism that she has experienced within China, especially with regards to meeting her Chinese partner’s parents. Campbell recognized the way in which prejudice exists outside the U.S., but how there is potential for a change in mindset.
Sophomore Mark West who was involved in the organization of this event, and aimed to create a safe environment in which students could share their thoughts, experiences and questions without judgment or criticism. In terms of planning, West worked with Professor Lena Scheen to find external speakers and to discuss what the aim of the Racism Forum really was, and how this would contribute to NYU Shanghai positively.
“I feel these sort of events are important for NYU Shanghai because we as a global community should be well aware of the types of problems our classmates experience in their home countries … I wanted to bring awareness to many of the students here at NYU Shanghai about the many forms of racism experienced in my home country and abroad.”
In terms of the Forum’s success, this was evident in the numbers of attendees and the fact that students were willing to consistently speak up. Freshman Lillian Korinek stated “the gallery was full and we could all see each other plainly under the white light. The first thing I noticed was the diversity. In the space of 400 square feet, NYU Shanghai had managed to cram in nearly two dozen nationalities.”
Ultimately, this Forum provided a precedent for future conversations at NYU Shanghai. As West stated, “I believe this forum showed the unity we have at NYU Shanghai. We had originally anticipated about 60 participants but we had over 100 show up to this event. We heard many great opinions, questions, and stories from all levels of our university. I feel this forum linked together the students, professors, and staff members in a harmonious fashion. As well many students, regardless of their cultural background, had insightful contributions. We will possibly plan another forum due to the success of our first forum.”
This article was written by Bella Farr. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Sunyi Wang