Protests, sit-ins, and marches. During the Civil Rights Movement, the fight for race equality and awareness was heard and seen throughout society. Time has gone on, but race is still an issue and fighting for a cause has been replaced by silence.
Woodrow Wilson Lecturer Callie Crossley spoke out about the race issue facing college campuses during her talk at St. Ambrose University on March 6, 2013, entitled, “I Don’t Mind Talking About It: Breaking the Silence About Race and Racism.”
“It’s important to keep current with what new leadership – college students – are thinking about and talking about,” she said.
During her talk at SAU, Crossley discussed the struggles our country faces with the issue of race. People don’t speak up or they assume racism doesn’t exist anymore. But Crossley believes the times have not changed.
Since the election of the United States’ first African American president, she believes this ironically has made the silence on race even worse. Obama cannot fix the problem, Crossley stated at her lecture. The action of breaking the silence comes down to everyone. She wanted to particularly focus on the silence that faces college campuses and what college students can do to make a difference.
“I think young people should be more open,” Crossley said. “You’re trying to figure out who you are. This is the time, in my opinion, that you should be the most open.”
Being open means speaking up and being aware. Crossley encourages students to start having one-on-one conversations and to not be afraid to speak up. Be aware of your surroundings as well. She makes the point that we not only learn from what is said but from what is not said as well.
“If you have the opportunity, take part and engage in conversation. You don’t have to agree, but at least you’re aware.”
Crossley believes that young people see the history of the Civil Rights Movement and do not believe they could do something like that. She wants them to realize this perception is incorrect. Those people were young and took initiative, gathered others who believed the same thing and took action. She wants students to be aware that these young people did not know they would be successful in their efforts.
“I don’t see a lot of students today willing to give themselves to some causes bigger than they are, without a guarantee that it’s going to be successful.”
Crossley stresses the importance of taking advantage of one’s education. Students are given the opportunity to become leaders through their university education. She pushes students to find a cause that speaks to them – no matter the size of it.
“Plant your seed where you are,” she said. “Care about something.”
In the end, college students will be the future leaders and it is important for them to start initiating conversations. Crossley sees these years in college as a great time for students to break the silence and put effort towards making a difference.
“Peel back the onion,” Crossley said. “You can’t get to the stuff you want to use until you peel back the layers. As you’re doing it, you’re going to tear up – there’s a little bit of pain going along – but it’s not long and it tastes good afterwards.”
Crossley is a journalist and producer of the Oscar-nominated hour of the acclaimed PBS documentary series “Eyes on the Prize.” She is currently the host of her own show on Boston public radio and program director for Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation.