Black History Month panel talks Overt Racism

Julia Barton ® Staff Writer |
Photo by Mansoor Ahmad ® Photo Editor |

Minnesota State University, Mankato continues to honor Black History Month while on Monday the “Amplifying Black Voices Project” hosted their third short film series discussing “Overt Racism”. 

This series consists of sharing the experiences of current and former Mankato residents that are being premiered at MNSU via Zoom every Monday throughout the month of February.

Their past two weekly topics have talked about “Growing Up Black” and “Microaggressions”.

Monday’s dissuasion about overt racism, which is the international and/or obvious harmful attitudes or behaviors towards another minority individual or group because of the color of his/her skin, had discussed their truths and experiences in the workplace and the personal effects that racism has on them that lead to many great conversations regarding their stories.

Laura Riness talked about how she experienced several forms of racism throughout her life,“I didn’t even know this was an issue until it kept happening to me over and over and over. I started to think ‘something doesn’t feel right here’, and I was taught to not say anything about something being racist or that not everything that happens to me has racial undertones, so a lot of it I internalized and started to blame myself.”

Riness continued by stating, “Then later in life hearing that my employment application was not making it to the decision-maker’s desk while being well-qualified was disheartening. There have been many incidents where there is a joke in the workplace that I am the only person of color. Although it is not obvious it’s racism, it’s a form of it that still makes me very angry and that’s one of the areas I hope to affect change.”

Knowing that racism can have different forms and severities, this conversation was about how it doesn’t have to be a physical form of racism to be negatively impactful. 

“We need to stop thinking about racism and racist actions as water hoses and dogs. Yes that was racist, but what is also racist is we understand how certain policies disproportionately impact folks of color, yet we go ahead with those policies anyways. That is racism. When it comes to housing, voting, gentrification, that is overt racism whether it be institutional or political or procedural it is still very evident in our time today and in our community,” Bukata Hayes, Executive Director of the Greater Mankato Diversity Council stated.

Stemming from a deeper-rooted issue that dates back to the early 1600s, racism has been known to be more intense and normalized in the south.

Paul Winchester, who grew up in Louisiana during the 1960s, shared his thoughts, “Racism is a product of white America that benefits them institutionally and economically for years. Overt racism is tricky, it can be hidden even to those of us who are educated about racism. We need to continue to have educational sessions so that people can understand racism and how it has impacted us in Mankato.”

Another aspect talked about was the fact that people who look a certain way or have a certain hairstyle were denied the opportunity of employment and how detrimental that is. Seeing how present racism is in today’s society was the lasting impression left in the discussion.

“It is not a melting pot, but a mixing bowl where we all bring unique things to the table that are all celebrated. Promote change, start asking questions to further make an impact on others. Sometimes the policies that have been in place for so long were actually developed by someone trying to oppress people of color. Ask questions and speak up because providing space and amplifying black voices so that more can be done, so that we can sit at those tables with you,” Kenneth Reid, the Director of African Affairs at MNSU said.

The Amplifying Black Voices project will have two more sessions with topics on “Systemic Racism” and “What’s Next” as that will be a summary of the series. 

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