Racial injustice has been an ongoing problem for centuries. Melissa Harris-Perry confronted the issues regarding race at E.J. Thomas Hall on April 12, which ended in a standing ovation.
Harris-Perry has a Ph.D. in political science, and is a distinguished author, columnist, and MSNBC host. According to MSNBC, Harris-Perry was named the foundational black feminist intellectual, activist, and educator of the early 20th century.
Harris-Perry’s lecture and slideshow presentation focused around the statement: “Race is not real.”
Harris-Perry showed numerous slides of black Americans that have been killed over the years. The presentation also included various slides containing statistics and other facts.
She said the slides are painful and continued by saying if we see the world that differently there must be inherent differences.
“Race is not a biological reality… Race can be a way of describing what we see. It’s a set of glasses we’re wearing,” Harris-Perry said.
During the lecture she brought up an incident that took place at a high school in 2006 called Jena Six. A tree where white students usually sit had three nooses hanging from the branches the day after the same spot was used by black students. A brutal fight broke out between the white and black students, and all six black students were charged with attempted murder.
In regard to that case, Harris-Perry stated that students do not have time for a full book, only passages, and no time for art, but they have time to be “taught very carefully the language of racial terrorism.”
“I live in a world where I’m terrified of blue lights… The experience of blackness creates suspicion, fear and anger,” Harris-Perry said. “We live in different Americas.”
Growing up, her parents made her aware of the struggle that black people endure.
“When you’re a teenager you think you can fix things but you don’t know how. You do know there’s a moment when you engage in the struggle,” Harris-Perry said.
Harris-Perry ended her presentation on two questions: What must black bodies endure and what must black bodies do?
When asked what stood out most during the presentation, attendee Althea Jackson said, “The countdown on the children being killed year by year, the countdown was very too real. Entirely too real, and then when she brought back history to present-time its just, time hadn’t changed. It was very frightening that we have so far to go. We have a long way to go, not as a people but as a country. It just has to stop.”
“I love her, I thought she was very honest, which is what I love about her,” Andrea Parks said. “I thought she brought up great points about race and being unified and black is not black and not a color. That’s it’s a problem and one that needs to be solved.”
The Melissa Harris-Perry forum was part of UA’s Rethinking Race series, which was originally scheduled for February 2.