Campus library hosts panel discussion about race in America

Jess Zaccarelli, Contributor

The Robert Morris University library held a discussion panel at 6 PM on Thursday night.

The library encouraged students to come and listen as the panelists discussed the book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and many of the themes present in the work.

Moderated by Dr. Anthony Robins, the discussion opened with a brief description of the book the panel was based on. “Between the World and Me” was written as a letter from Coates to his 15-year-old son about what it is like to be a black man in America.

When describing the book, Robins said, “Coates speaks to his son directly about the perils of being a young black boy, of having to be twice as good and to take responsibility for the actions of other people.”

The panel consisted of Rev. Dr. Darryl Canady, who is the senior pastor at Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-El, who is the founder of the Young Dreamer’s Club, Amanda Neatrour, who is the program manager of the Women’s Leadership and Mentorship program here at Robert Morris, and Dr. Chester Thompson, who is the assistant vice president of the underrepresented minority student achievement program here at Robert Morris.

Griffin-El described the book as a “tool to help me reflect on what it means to be a father within contemporary times. Specifically, contemporary times to, what I would call, racial symbolic violence.”

“What I mean by that is my existence as a black man is constantly under threat, whether it be in public spaces,” said Griffin-El. “I always have to stand back and not be who I am primarily because if I keep it real, then people will see me as someone who is a threat.”

Neatrour emphasized how she related to the author because, like Coates, she grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. She also attended the same university as Coates did and reflected on how powerful it was to go to school at Howard University.

“I mean, when you’re on campus with 130 countries, and they’re all black people, it really is a beautiful thing where, for a space and time, in that little campus in the middle of Washington, D.C., where you actually feel like this is a safe space for you. It’s really an amazing thing to have that room to breathe and learn.”

Discussion topics ranged from the education of African-American youth to how black parents feel they need to prepare their children for the unforgiving world that lies ahead for them. The main message all of the panelists agree on was that it takes a village to raise a black child in a white America.