In the current political season, race issues have once again returned to the foreground of American life. At Indiana University Northwest, two upcoming programs will address this sensitive topic from separate yet equally compelling vantage points.
On Thursday, April 3, starting at 11:30 a.m. in the Savannah Center Auditorium, IU Northwest Labor Studies Coordinator and Lecturer Thandabantu Iverson, Ph.D., will discuss his recent trip to Geneva, Switzerland as part of the U.S. Human Rights Network delegation to the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Iverson, who has taught at IU Northwest since 1997, was one of 126 U.S. activists who participated in a shadow-reporting process connected to the U.S. State Department’s presentation of its periodic report to ICERD in February regarding the nation’s compliance with the convention’s treaty on the elimination of discrimination.
And, on Monday, April 7, beginning at 6 p.m. in Savannah Auditorium, the IU Northwest Campus Council on Diversity will continue its ongoing program “Shattering the Silences” with a forum entitled “Race and Politics.” The evening’s program will include a screening of Sen. Barack Obama’s March 18 campaign address on race relations in America, followed by a discussion session.
The IU Northwest campus and the Northwest Indiana community are invited to attend these thought-provoking programs, which promise to delve more deeply into the racial issues that face America today.
Please note, the April 7 event is NOT a campaign event and is not intended to demonstrate or invite support for any U.S. presidential candidate. Rather, it is intended to use Obama’s provocative speech as a starting point for a much broader discussion of today’s race relations and how attitudes about race are or are not expressed in the political arena and in American society. The forum will be moderated by Ind. State Rep. and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Vernon Smith, Ph.D.
“It’s not about getting support for any candidate,” Smith said. “Whichever candidate you support -- and maybe you don’t even support the Democrats, maybe you’re a Republican -- but this is still an issue that, if we don’t look at it and address it, it’s going to continue to surface. I think the idea is to look at how white America sees the race issue and also at how black America sees the race issue. Yes, we all love America, but we all love it in different ways because we’ve all had different experiences.”
The “Race and Politics” forum panel will also include Northwest Indiana Study Circles Coordinator Noble Dennie and Northwest Indiana Race Relations Council Co-Chair Karen Freeman-Wilson, Ph.D. The forum is scheduled to run until 7:30 p.m. and is open to the Northwest Indiana community.
The April 3 event will be a report-back of sorts for Iverson, who is a board member of the U.S. Human Rights Network. As Iverson explained, the report provided to the U.N. in February by the human-rights delegation differed markedly from the State Department’s official report, and the concerns and issues raised by that shadow-reporting process were reflected in ICERD’s concluding observations, which were released March 17. Iverson will discuss the U.N.’s conclusions about U.S. compliance with the convention’s treaty on discrimination; he will also recount his personal experiences in Geneva and how they affected his own views of human rights issues.
“Two years ago, I didn’t even know that there was a shadow-reporting process,” Iverson said. “I understand more now about the U.N. process. There was a time when I think I dismissed it. I think I just thought, like many people, that human rights was something that happens ‘over there.’”
Iverson, who was joined in the delegation by Professor of Law George Edwards, J.D., of Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis, as well as two IUPUI law students, said the many personal stories and experiences that he gleaned from the Geneva trip made him understand just how far-reaching discrimination is today, although many people seem to believe that the battles of the civil-rights era have all been won. Iverson said the involvement of so many citizens in the shadow-reporting effort encouraged him to believe that Americans are willing to address discrimination issues.
“The shadow-reporting process is a process by which people of civil society can have an opportunity to say, ‘Whoa, wait a minute, let’s look at this. There are some things that the official State Department report has left out, some things that are not interpreted in quite the way that our experience says to us that they should be interpreted,’” Iverson explained. “So the shadow-reporting process is a way that the convention has established to provide for a corrective analysis or assessment, which can then be evaluated by the international committee’s panel of experts in conjunction with what they have already received from a particular country that has published a periodic report.”
On April 3, Iverson will discuss the shadow report’s “corrective assessment” and talk about what lies ahead for the U.S. Human Rights Network and other groups that continue to work toward the elimination of discrimination in all its many forms. The IU Northwest campus and Northwest Indiana community are invited to participate in this discussion and learn more about the U.N. treaty on racial discrimination and how some American citizens are working to make its principles a reality in this country.
For more information on the April 3 event, contact Iverson at (219) 980-4272, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the April 7 “Shattering the Silences” forum, contact the IU Northwest Office of Diversity and Equity at (219) 980-6705.