This article was published in The Appalachian.
In the last four decades, enormous strides have been made toward racial equality. University enrollment among minorities is up. Sometimes, bigotry as a whole is thought to be on its way out.
Does that mean race no longer matters? Are we past that issue? Can we – as a society, as a university – call ourselves post-racial?These issues and more will be discussed at an intercultural Lunch and Learn on Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in Plemmons Student Union’s Multicultural Center. The event, “Post-Racial America in the Age of Obama?” is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Development.
The discussion will be moderated by Raj A. Ghoshal, assistant professor of sociology, whose classes focus on economic and social inequality, crime and punishment and race.
Ghoshal’s perspective on the central question of the Lunch and Learn is that we’re not living in a post-racial society – not yet, anyway.
In 2009, he wrote an opinion piece in The Raleigh News and Observer titled “Despite racial leap, disparities still linger.”
“Assuming that an Obama presidency signals that racial equality has been achieved would be a serious mistake,” the article reads. “In many significant ways, racial minorities, especially African-Americans, remain disadvantaged in American society.”
One of Ghoshal’s colleagues in the sociology department knew about the article and recommended him to the Multicultural Center’s director, Gus Péna, who was looking for someone to speak about race at a the event.
Through the Lunch and Learn, the sociology professor will lead an activity to help students and attendees examine their unconscious assumptions about race.
He also hopes to add some facts to a discussion that so often bases its arguments on emotion.
“Race is something that’s obviously talked about a lot in the media,” Ghoshal said. “But it sometimes seems like a fact-free discussion. It’s very anecdotal. It’s very emotional. What I’m hoping to do is provide some information and perspective,” Ghoshal said.
He will do that by presenting information on strides that have been made in recent decades, but he’ll also introduce some disappointing statistics about employment discrimination, inequity in the criminal justice system and the wealth gap along racial lines.
“That’s not to say that we’ve made no progress, because clearly we have…but we’re not there yet,” Ghoshal said.
Ghoshal also hopes to inspire students to take some responsibility for the racial inequality that still exists – not because they caused the problem, but because they have the power to solve it.
“We didn’t set up this system, so we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. But we can still feel responsible for it,” he said. “We can take responsibility for it, not because we created it – we didn’t create it – but because of the kinds of people we are.”