Campus Event Commentary Peter Rock

Last night I attended the Bryan Stevenson lecture. Mr. Stevenson spoke incredibly well, and made several points that resonated with me. The goal of the lecture was to provide students with ideas and information that could not only help them confront and understand racial injustice, but to move forward and counteract racism’s harmful effects. Mr. Stevenson’s first point was to become proximate. The idea behind this is you cannot work against ideas and institutions if you do not confront them personally. You cannot help people that you do not understand or interact with. The second point was that the narrative surrounding race that currently exists in America needs to be changed. The trope that there is a difference between white people and nonwhite people started as a justification for slavery and has existed in America ever since. Americans must work to change this narrative to begin moving forward. The third point was that people must remain hopeful in dark times. It is easy to be cynical and give up, but having hope is our only chance to create change. Mr. Stevenson’s fourth and final claim was that to move forward you have to be ready to put yourself in uncomfortable positions. It’s necessary to say and do things that feel uncomfortable. The comfort that we experience in our lives has been made possible by a system of inequality. To confront this, we have to have conversations about difficult topics and put ourselves in situations that may feel unnatural or challenging. One of the most powerful quotes in the lecture, a quote that is also used in Just Mercy, is as follows: “I believe that the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but rather the opposite of poverty is justice”. I think that this was a super important part of Mr. Stevenson’s lecture. This quote is an important reminder that conflating wealth with justice is unproductive. American ideals of capitalism functioning as a perfect system may be clouding, in this case, solutions that could help impoverished people and those suffering from injustice.

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