'Conversations of Color' to focus on national-anthem kneeling controversy

By Alex Sixt | 1/22/18 2:29am

GVL / Courtesy - The Seattle Times

To provide a safe space for students to talk about difficult and controversial topics, the Grand Valley State University Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) hosts its "Conversations of Color" discussion series every month on campus. 

This month’s conversation will take place Wednesday, Jan. 24, at noon in the Kirkhof Center, Room 1240. The discussion is titled “The NFL and the #TakeAKnee Controversy." The OMA hopes to bring transparency to this national issue and give students the opportunity to openly discuss it. 

The #TakeAKnee movement was started when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem in 2016 to bring attention to what he called injustices of racial police brutality that were happening in the U.S. Britney Underwood, a graduate assistant at the OMA and a facilitator of Conversations of Color, said the movement affects students on campus as well as nationally, and she believes that having a discussion about these issues can bring communities together to help stop them. 

These discussions, facilitated by OMA staff, are designed to spark dialogue about controversial topics concerning race, gender and current events on campus in a space where students feel comfortable to discuss them. Many of these topics are meant to aid in students' understanding of current events and the impact they have on campus and around the world. Underwood said it provides a way outside of social media to have a real conversation about current events in the world. 

“Conversation of Color helps us to have a space to talk and work out these happenings and for different students to be able to learn from each other,” she said. 

The discussions enable students to talk and educate one another on these topics rather than turning to the internet for information. 

“More recently than ever, with social media, there isn’t much conversation that is had in person; we hop onto Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat,” Underwood said. 

She thinks these face-to-face discussions help students on both sides of the community—those who have experienced injustice and those who haven’t—to develop a better understanding of these occurrences in the world. 

“There are students who can relate and express how they feel about this and learn about why this is happening, … and I feel like doing that here on campus … can help bring our community together to learn and see what these injustices are about," she said.

The conversation will include a background story from the facilitator about the topic of discussion, followed by an explanation of some rules that will allow for an open and honest dialogue. Students will also be given a context of the topic to help them learn more about the issue, enabling them to have a constructive dialogue with other students.

Conversations of Color is open to all students interested, and facilitators will provide clear rules to allow for an open dialogue where students feel safe to share their opinion. There is no fee to attend. 

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