Last Monday I attended the 14th annual american studies lecture held by Renee Romano, Professor of History, Comparative American Studies and Africana studies. The title of the lecture, “The Great Force of History”: Collective Memory, White Innocence and Making Black Lives Matter, immediately appealed, as one of my favourite aspects of american studies is exploring how much has actually changed in America over the past century, especially how race relations have, or haven’t, as the case may be, progressed.
Romano began the lecture with a series of statistics exemplifying the treatment of both blacks and whites in comparison to each other then and now. Shockingly one graph showed how, if I remember correctly, in today’s day and age there is an astonishingly large proportion of whites who see themselves as more oppressed than blacks in the US, a statistic which has dramatically changed over the last sixty years, it’s hard to believe progression has been achieved, when faced with statistics such as these. Romano also presented us with statistics that showed just how many black families were living around the poverty line, as well as annual earning statistics compared to white earnings. It genuinely shocked me that when you scratch just a little beneath the surface of the appearance of race relations, on a broad level, things really haven’t seemed to have progressed very much at all. I felt this lack of progress was further exemplified when Romano began to discuss the number of shootings in southern american states over the past few years, this highlighted to me the still seemingly unspoken element of racism ingrained within the predominantly white police force.
Romano’s lecture was not only incredibly thought-provoking, but also entirely relevant to our current module content, particularly within our Ethnicity and Diversity module. Although Romano hit home that we still have a long way to go with race relations and “making black lives matter”, the lecture was left on a relatively positive note with the idea that progress is a constant movement, no matter how small the progress and that we shouldn’t stop working towards a legitimately equal and integrated society.