Author discusses path to racial justice

Mikaela Cannizzo

Kiese Laymon, a black writer from the South, said racial justice addresses issues beyond Confederate monuments and symbolism within the U.S.

Laymon read an excerpt from his essay, “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America,” and answered questions from students and faculty members during a talk Thursday afternoon.

Laymon said he agrees with the principle of removing symbols such as the Confederate flag, but he said he believes arguments for meaningful racial justice are scarce among white people.

“Taking a symbol down should be the easy part of racial justice, but it’s not,” Laymon said. “When all those things come down, their lives won’t change one bit.”

Public relations sophomore Madison Comstock said she believes Confederate monuments are an integral part of U.S. history.  

“For me, it’s about our country’s history and you can’t just erase part of our country’s history that some people don’t like because it happened,” Comstock said. “I don’t think the [Confederate] symbol should be on our university’s property, but I do think it is being slowly erased from our history and that’s not okay.”  

Daniela Rosiles, journalism and corporate communications junior, said she thinks it is important to ease racial tension through everyday interactions and refrain from stereotyping people by race.

“Especially as students, I think we need to address [problems] as opposed to band-wagoning on getting rid of all of the confederate flags and statues,” Rosiles said.  

Laymon said he thinks concentrated groups willing to work for racial justice, such as Black Lives Matter, have the potential to make an impact because they focus on improving living conditions for a specific race of people. Comparing current movements to the Civil Rights Movement, he said he believes activism today will follow a similar pattern.

According to Laymon, the root of systematic racism is education. As an educator, Laymon said he wants students to be able to work and learn in an environment that creates a loving atmosphere for black people. He said he believes there is a lack of love and care toward black peole in creative works today.

Laymon said he practices reformed education, such as exposing teachers to diverse perspectives, in an effort to eradicate the anti-black sentiment in the country.

“My problem with education is you have all these administrators who have never taken an identity-based course,” Laymon said. “We should perpetually be justly educated, and that’s just not happening.”