ASUCI, in collaboration with the Black Student Union, the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies, the Program in African American Studies, the Student Voter Registration, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs hosted an open lecture concerning civil rights and social justice in the current era last Wednesday night.
This session was the third and last in a series of lectures dedicated to providing students with information and differing viewpoints about critical political topics.
“We wanted to give students an environment that differed from their usual classroom education. Events like these ensure that they get opportunities to ask questions about things that aren’t usually touched upon,” Dr. Ana Elizabeth Rosas, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies, said.
The guest speaker was Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley, the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA.
“Dr. Kelley is an individual with a dynamic vision, and someone who really encourages the pursuit of learning through cultural studies,” Rosas said. “We sought him out because we knew he could find common ground with the student audience, and encourage them to flex their intellectual muscles.”
Entitled “Civil Rights in the Era of Neoliberalism,” Dr. Kelley’s lecture explored the idea that the commonly accepted perception that the civil rights movement has been resolved results in the undermining of modern criticisms in this Neoliberalist era about racial inequality and efforts to correct them.
“Neoliberalism,” Dr. Kelley said, “is the privatizing of the public sphere. This includes housing and education. Neoliberalism is also the expansion of a security state and the military, the regulation of sexuality, use of austerity and the ascension of the free market.”
Dr. Kelley’s lecture revolved around his main argument that the myth about the civil rights movements being only about achieving integration discredits current racial bias claims, and that this perception actually masks the fact that the past 25 years have been a reversal of civil rights protections.
Throughout the session, Dr. Kelley touched upon a multitude of topics to support his claim, such as the racial bias that is evident in prisons, corporations inflicting environmental hazards on minorities and the expansion of national security throughout the country.
The audience was allowed to ask questions, and additional topics such as the controversy surrounding affirmative action were discussed.
Perhaps most rewarding for attendees, however, was the chance to personally approach Kelley for any inquiries or comments after the session was over.
“I consider it an honor to be able to have conversations with students about important topics that directly affect them. University students need to understand that they are able to give as much as they get,” Kelley said.
The collaboration between ASUCI and these various organizations was a crucial component for the event to be a possibility, and its basis was to provide students with exposure to pivotal political topics, especially in regards to the upcoming election.
“Student government worked very hard and was very invested in planning this event,” Andrea Gaspar, Executive Vice-President of ASUCI, said.
“Getting students on campus to register to vote is great, but we really wanted to provide the opportunity for them to understand that they must make an educated vote.”