Student groups talk about race

Emma Gray

Staff Writer

Race can be a difficult subject to talk about—but that is exactly what a couple of Parkland’s student organizations intend to do.

From every angle there is the looming potential of offending someone when talking about race and race relations. The ability to talk about race and race relations is exactly what “Race Talks,” a discussion group put on by the Parkland Scholars student organization and the Black Student Success Project hopes to achieve.

The discussion group allowed students a safe space to discuss various topics pertaining to race and what they see happening at Parkland and elsewhere. Some of these topics included stereotypes, the lack of many mixed race friend groups at Parkland, cultural barriers, the Black Lives Matter movement, and how highlighting commonalities is one key to improving race relations.

The group is led by Donna Tanner-Harold, a counselor through the Counseling and Advising Center and coordinator of the Black Student Success Project, and Marsh Jones, a history professor and director of the honors program. Jones says they started the group because they “want to increase awareness of the problem and open a dialogue about racism.” They have strived to keep this dialogue open and judgment-free.

One of the main overarching themes of the afternoon that Marsh Jones, one of the coordinators, hopes students got was “an understanding that racism does occur.” He also hopes that they came away with “an increased desire to alleviate this problem through relationships and discussions.”

While most students at the discussion group believed Parkland is a fairly accepting and integrated place, many also admitted that when they thought about it closer they saw that there is still a large degree of discomfort between people of different racial backgrounds, with stereotypes silently driving people away from each other.

Jones says, through discussion groups, students can “foster relationships and understandings among ethnic groups and take steps toward eliminating racism.”

Minorities make up 38 percent of the student body according to 2013 data from U.S. News Education. However, data from Community College Review by way of the government Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System from 2014 places minorities as making up only 26 percent of students. Either way, it is lower than the Illinois community college average of 39 percent.

There will be another discussion group happening on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. in U140 and on Nov. 16 in Student Life.