Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, sociology professor from Georgetown University, visited Weber State students on Friday to discuss the issue of color blindness in America.
“Color blindness, in a racial sense, is a misguided notion. It’s part of a melting pot philosophy that suggests that the way forward is through assimilation,” said Chuck Wight, president of Weber State, in his introduction speech.
Dr. Dyson stressed his belief for the necessity of differences. He believes many people lack the historical perspective to think through issues of things like differences and diversity.
“All differences are not created equally,” said Dyson.
Dyson believes that knowing this, there should be a way for people to think through the differences in other people and accept them. Many people, he explained, do not want to speak about the issues of diversity.
“We live, as the great writer, Gore Vidal says, in the United States of Amnesia,” he said.
He particularly points out how people are uncomfortable when it comes to discussions of race but states that these are things we should not shy away from. He also believes that people would rather not speak about the issues of race in America because it is too painful.
He spoke about the history of hip hop and how artists voice their struggles through their music. As a sociology professor, he teaches many classes on hip hop music but also claims you can learn a lot through listening to other music like blues or country.
“Difference is not deficient!” Dyson explained about embracing diversity.
He urged people to engage with others who are not from the same background. He suggest that you can learn a lot from people who sound and look a lot different than you but believes that not a lot of people are stepping outside of their own circle.
“There are new generations that are more open to experiences than their parents were, and we have to acknowledge that,” said Dyson.
There were multiple sessions held prior to the keynote speech about inequality or minorities and women. The session on women and minorities in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [S.T.E.M] major or career fields focused on the lack of these two groups in this field.
Weber State student Amber Smith was among the audience and is studying civic advocacy and communications. She is thinking about going into a S.T.E.M major after taking a biological anthropology class that she had fallen in love with.
“I feared going into a degree in science, but now I am ready for it,” Smith said during the question and answer portion of the session.
Weber State Math Professor Julian Chan expressed that fear is a theme for many who don’t fit into the dominantly white male S.T.E.M field and admits that it happens a lot.
“Overcoming that fear is a very powerful thing,” said Chan during the discussion.
Dr. William A. Smith, professor of education, culture and society at the University of Utah, was also among the speakers at many of the sessions on Friday. His topic was on microaggression, where he has done research. He spoke of his own experiences throughout his life and also spoke on the history of microaggression.
He pointed out that there are three different types of micro-aggression: micro-insult, micro-assault and micro-invalidation.
“It’s not wrong to ask somebody where you’re from, but it’s those eight other questions trying to force an Asian person back to Asia,” said Dr. Smith during his session.