Just Listen: An open conversation about race

Students and professors come together to have an open and candid conversation about race

By Elia Franco


I [once] drove all the way to Chicago just to avoid having to go through [being invasively] checked at the airport. It was just that much better, because honestly it wasn’t worth it for me—I also wanted to carry a bunch of stuff as well”, Mohammed Mahfouz, a UB student and volunteer of the panel ended his story as he and the rest of the crowd giggled.

We were holding this event, directed by Dr. Alfred Guy and several others, for the sake of discussing the effects of race on an individual. The idea was born in the heart of Dr. Guy, who one day invited me to his office to discuss the importance of having a racial discussion in which people could speak to each other with the purpose of understanding that their differences were not so different after all. After introducing me to the rest of the team, multiple meetings, having gone through various works that evaluated kinds of racial discussion, the sponsorship of the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics, and many slices of pizza later, the event was finally organized to take place on February 12, 2018.

I was surprised to walk into a class- room filled with people—young and old, who had willingly come to take part in the conversation and to tell their own stories. The two hours as- signed for the event seemed to have flown by like seconds as many stories were shared among students.

Some students spoke of the con- cerns of raising an African American child into a society which so harshly judged African American individuals, others spoke of negative connotations regarding their religion and the way it connected to their social identity and others spoke of the struggles of being an immigrant or growing up in an immigrant household. In the end, many spoke about the hardships of simply trying to live their life freely and happily in a society that created many barriers and molds for them to fit into. Many of the comments brought about laughter, some brought about a moment of reflection, and some stories even brought about tears, but if I can say one thing, that would be that it was all honest, respectful and solemn.

It was a shared moment of sympathy and empathy during which the colors of our skins and the burdens they brought with them were acknowledged. It was a moment of sharing our insecurities, our nightmares and our realities. Finally, after it was all said and done we were only left with one thing: the beautiful brokenness of our humanity.

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