South Chats: Unpacking difficult topics in a contentious time
“A lot of the times we desensitize from political events and we don’t get a chance to process them.” ‘South Chats’ allow people to process these events.
Disclaimer: The opinions of most participants are anonymous as that was the nature of the event. This is an exception The Tab BU has made.
Every month or so, a substantial group of students from South Campus gather in the basement of 520 Park Drive to unpack important and difficult to discuss events that question the very foundations of our society.
'South Chats' is safe space where everyone can expect to have their opinions listened to and respected. With topics such as the 2016 presidential election, the current administration's travel ban and student visas, there are many BU voices that need to be heard and brought to the forefront of discourse.
This past Wednesday's discussion was centered around the riots in Charlottesville, the reaction following them and the mass shooting in Las Vegas. As students voiced their opinions, others added their own to the discussion, drawing from their own experience.
A core question that was asked of the group by Dean Kenneth Elmore was "Are we our ancestor's wildest dreams?" In other words, are we living up to our ancestor's hopes and dreams of a unified, unprejudiced America?
Many students agreed that we were far better off than our ancestors were when it comes to the acceptance of difference in race, gender, religion, gender identity, ethnicity and sexual orientation, while adding that we still have a much further way to go.
While speaking of the riots in Charlottesville, students expressed diverse views on how they happened. A number of students supported the notion that they were a loud culmination of social factors that have been at play for years and that it was inevitable regardless of the current administration's rhetoric, while others argued that the Trump administration has encouraged more overt behaviour from racists.
Others held that the defence of Confederate monuments was a form of southern white backlash, and that Confederate monuments were being defended because they fear the loss of their historical dominance.
All agreed that the riots in Charlottesville questioned the state of race relations in this country. One student expressed her belief that "we're on the brink of a revolution and that people are going to need to choose sides." She wasn't sure whether that revolution would be a violent revolution or a revolution of words.
In regards to the mass shooting in Las Vegas, there were two dominant points which brought up.
It was expressed by many that they were disappointed by inaction on the side of the government, that time after time fails to enact stricter gun control. One student mentioned that he sees a cycle when tragedies such as this happen. This cycle consists of mourning, partisan debate and then inaction.
Other students agreed that politics of gun control and safety have prevented anything tangible from happening. Other students said the fact that the shooter was white affected discourse around the event. They stated that reporting on a shooter changes with race. A black shooter may be associated with criminality, a muslim shooter may be associated with terrorism, and a white shooter more often than not is associated with mental illness even if we know nothing substantial about the case.
All in all, a sense of movement and a desire for progress could be felt throughout the room. 'South Chats' was originally organized to heal minds after the 2016 presidential election, but it has grown into something bigger and more exciting.
Brie Randolph, a first year student on the medical campus expressed that, "[the first South Chats after the presidential election] allowed people from all sides to come and have a discussion and to verbalize what they were feeling." Subsequent 'South Chats' have allowed students to further share their thoughts to a group of people with different mindsets, and learn from one another.
Randolph also expressed that "a lot of the time we desensitize from political events and we don't get a chance to process them." According to her, 'South Chats' allow people to process these events even if, "we're sitting here listening, not giving an opinion."
In this time of division, events like 'South Chats' seem to be needed to allow people to come together and heal.