By Jenny Macler ’23 and Lucy Sanchez ’23
On Sunday, October 2 at Wamogo High School, four prominent writers spoke on the role of race in American politics and how it has shifted after Barack Obama’s presidency. A collection of FGS students attended this event and had the opportunity to speak to the panelists afterward.
The speakers included Imani Perry, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Ali Velshi, and Roxane Gay, all of whom are working to combat racism in America. Perry is a columnist for The Atlantic, the author of six books, and a professor at Princeton University. Kendi teaches at Boston University and has published five books, one being an international bestseller in 2019. Velshi works for MSNBC, hosts “Velshi’s Banned Book Club,” and has written two books relating to business. Gay is the author of five books, including a bestseller in 2014, and is an opinion writer for the New York Times.
During the panel, Roxane Gay stressed the importance of people who hold racial power, particularly white people, and the role they play in discussions on racial inequality. White people should be able to take accountability for the power they hold, but they shouldn’t feel as if they are taking the blame. Being respectful doesn’t mean taking all the blame in a discussion, but acknowledging the complicated and racist past which may benefit one person over another. Gay also stressed that a person could take accountability for holding power while still discussing their own suffering and be taken seriously.
Perry’s parting advice to young activists is to always call out misinformation and then substitute it with factual information. He warned young people to “Hold fast to your commitments, don’t concede territory.” It is so important to stand by what is true and not give in to the false information being spread around. In Ibram Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist, he concludes that “Once we lose hope, we are guaranteed to lose. But if we ignore the odds and fight to create an antiracist world, then we give humanity a chance to one day survive, a chance to live in communion, a chance to be forever free” (Kendi, How to be Antiracist p. 238).
Gay left the panel on an optimistic note, saying, “We have reasons to be positive, our generation is incredible; we have such a willingness to make change.” Ali Velshi followed this up by encouraging young people to “Make change because you can, if there’s a chance, there is an obligation to act, no matter how slim your chances are.”