THE UNIVERSITY OF AKRON, AKRON, OH
Each February, The University of Akron provides a forum in which race and race-related issues can be discussed, examined, and hopefully, better understood. The "Rethinking Race: Black, White and Beyond" series offers both the University community and residents of Northeast Ohio the opportunity to hear and share a wide variety of viewpoints. Through films, performances, Face-2-Face Conversations, and keynote speakers, Rethinking Race hopes to engage the public with important topics such as diversity in the workplace and awareness of issues and culture.
Some of the group's innovative work includes Face-2-Face (F2F) conversations, or discussions dealing with race and racial conflict. Because race is a sensitive and controversial topic, F2F conversations provide a forum for interesting, illuminating and real conversation—student to student—without reinforcing tired stereotypes, amplifying hostility, or spreading more misinformation about the very real and complex racial conflicts playing out in America today. The hope is that participants can move outside their comfort zones, examine implicit assumptions and thoughtfully challenge those of others. Through the course of the conversations, which cover topics such as "I Don't Think We're Supposed to Talk about That" and "African-Americans in the Classroom: Are There Unspoken Rules Toward Academic Success?," participants find ways to work together with everyone in the group toward justice, reconciliation, and redemption.
Another innovation the group has introduced on campus is the Race Experience Kiosk, which is designed to help consider race, racism and identity in a new light. The museum-quality exhibit allows participants to change their racial identity to Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and Indian, and then share favorite pictures via email. The kiosk also creates an environment that encourages discussions about race and our deep-rooted beliefs, misconceptions and biases.
The "Rethinking Race" series can be traced back to 1997, when President Bill Clinton chose UA as the location for his first Town Hall Meeting on Race. Today, students, faculty and staff work together to plan programs for the series that continue to advance the understanding of race relations begun at that town hall meeting.
Share your Rethinking Race experiences on Twitter with the hashtag #RethinkingRace