Diverse panel answers student questions
Students gathered to ask questions and consider different perspectives about diversity and race at Biola. | Becky Mitchell/THE CHIMES
To continue the practice of listening in response to racism, students attended the panel Understanding Race: Racism in Context to pose questions regarding Biola’s current racial standing on May 5.
core of the commandment
The Black Student Alliance and the Do Something club hosted the panel. The members of the panel included junior journalism major and vice president of BSA Stephanie Lindo, sociology professor Brad Christerson, co-pastor at New Heart Community Church Danny Cortez, and senior communications major Gavin Sweeney. The planning started in February with the original focus placed on white privilege awareness and which was then switched to racism in context.
“I think these discussions need to happen because that’s when love happens. When people feel invisible and unheard it means that intimacy can’t develop and Christian communities like Biola, is you know we’re supposed to love God and love neighbor that’s the core of the commandment,” Cortez said.
Instead of taking place at the fireplace, the event moved to Mayers Auditorium, where Torrey Honors Institute cancelled their own panel in light of the BSA panel.
The larger space was a blessing, according to Lindo, who originally expected a turnout of around 20 people. An estimated 100 students showed up to the event ready with questions.
Lindo began with prepared questions while students wrote other questions on notecards. One of the first questions addressed the issue of saying “black lives matter” rather than “all lives matter,” not because black lives matter more, but because they are being constantly marginalized and deserve the awareness.
“The questions that were asked were very relevant and I feel like they were definitely questions that...I’ve heard from different students, so for them to be brought out in such a public context is really great,” said Charles Hawthorne, sophomore cinema and media arts major and executive board member of BSA. “And the response is definitely very helpful, I mean a lot of the questions that were asked were kind of questions that I had, too.”
Lindo explained that she was surprised to receive such a large amount of questions from students. Questions ranged from being willing to listen to others and accepting their stories to concrete ways to engage in this issue.
“I think it really showed where Biola is in our cultural competency. We have a lot of work to do on this campus, and moments like this move us a step forward. It showed how much growth we had. And it’s not bad, it's just that this is where we are and so let's work together to get more in depth together as a university,” Lindo said.
Though Lindo originally intended the panel to be composed of only white people, she decided to add more diversity so students from different backgrounds could relate to the discussion.
“We wanted to give students a chance to get it out with students who look like them, with people who have been where they are to move students from apathy to conversation and from apathy to action so that we can change Biola’s culture,” Lindo said.
Students appreciated BSA’s efforts to open the conversation for different perspectives and opinions to come and engage with one another. Gayane Allen, junior philosophy major, felt glad they took the responsibility to further necessary conversations.
“The fact that they were willing to make an entire event to help people engage with it more...it’s a wonderful thing, it's a healthy thing, it's something they shouldn't have to do, but they did it to help their peers to show that this is a conversation we’re open and ready to engage with and we want you to come in,” Allen said.
Students came with differing opinions on the present state of Biola’s racial issues, hoping to witness different perspectives. They talked about what kind of changes are needed and how to go about them.
“I [want to] encourage people to walk away from tonight with whatever emotions they’re feeling and sit in them and wrestle in them and don’t give up,” said Lauren Garchow, senior sociology major and Do Something club president. “So I just want to make sure that people feel validated in whatever their feelings are walking away from tonight, even if it’s anger or you think people on the stage were lying or over exaggerating, sit in that, why do you feel that way? And continue to learn regardless of that.”