‘We are in perilous times in this country’: panel discussion analyzes race and gender issues


Marivel Guzman

A student shares her experience and concerns regarding the current issues faced by the black community during a panel discussion in the University Ballroom on Sept. 21. (Photo by Marivel Guzman)

Rin Carbin

A student panel discussing race and gender relations was hosted by the Sacramento State history department and the Centers for Diversity and Inclusion as part of Constitution and Civic Engagement Week on Wednesday, Sept. 21 in the Hinde Auditorium.

The panel, titled “An Evening on National Race Relations in the U.S. Political Drama,” was the first of a two-part event and touched on topics including the Black Lives Matter Movement, Islamophobia, and problems faced by queer and transgendered people of color.

“We are in perilous times in this country,” said Sac State government professor Robert Stanley Oden. “(The summer of 2016) is a significant marker in our history, just as the year of the summer of 1968.”

Oden analyzed the parallels between the summer of 2016 — which he called the “summer of death, madness, and sadness” — and 1968, the year the Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, by highlighting the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June and the officer-involved shooting death of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Sept. 16.

Oden also spoke about plans to open what he called a “center for race and ethnicity” at Sac State, where students could gather to address racial issues with research and solutions.

Saeeda Islam, a graduate student in the history program, spoke about Islamophobia, drawing from his personal experiences and alluding to controversial statements made by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“We’re living in a country where a man who is running for president is saying that Muslims should be killed or hit with bullets dipped in blood — soaked in the blood of a pig,” Islam said. “There’s no reason why I, nor any other Muslim, should feel as if they don’t belong here, or we should go home — because this is home for many of us.”

Sac State student Alejandra Medina spoke about queer and transgendered people of color, particularly queer and transgendered immigrants.

Medina spoke about queer and transgendered people in detention camps who are “often not placed in the gender (they) identify with.” Inside those detention camps, Medina said, “(trans women) are subject to so many different types of abuse, most specifically sexual abuse.”

Medina also spoke about humanitarian crises faced by transgendered individuals in detention centers, such as transgendered people dying from lack of medicine or hormone treatments and being forced into solitary confinement.

The first part of the event included the welcome reception for the Black Alumni Chapter, a chapter of the Sacramento State Alumni Association.

Edward Jones, a Sac State alumnus who helped to organize the reception, said that during the 1960s and 1970s, he was more hopeful that race relations would improve.

“As of today, 40 years later, the situation has not changed, but (has) gotten worse,” Jones said.

The final scheduled event for Constitution and Civic Engagement Week is a lecture from Cornel West in the University Ballroom on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m.