Edinboro panel covers Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, COVID-19

Category:  News
Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 at 1:30 PM

Edinboro University hosted a panel on Aug. 25 via Zoom, titled “What We Learned This Summer (Diversity).” The panel was organized by Edinboro University's Chief Diversity Officer Terrence Mitchell, while featuring Dr. Rhonda Matthews and Professor Julie Barry, both current Edinboro faculty members.

Matthews began by reflecting on the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, stating, “The creation of the movement and the organizations that now support it, I think, are really important and really necessary, but what interests me most is the backlash against it.”

“People think it’s just some kind of takeover,” added Barry, as she aimed to demystify the notions surrounding the movement. “No, we’re just pointing out some racial disparities and injustices that need to be taken care of, because really when Black Lives Matter, all lives will really matter.”

The George Floyd killing, along with the video, was also discussed. “I don’t know how anyone can be that cruel,” said Matthews. “He snuffed out that man’s life.” Matthews then commented on the video’s impact. “I’m not glad that people are beginning to discover this awfulness, but I am glad that people who did not know about this stuff beforehand are beginning to go through the process of learning and listening and figuring these things out.” 

The duo also spoke more to the specific reactions some have to police killings and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“People kind of get upset when you use the word ‘lynching’ and when you talk about it, but there’s no difference in the images we saw in the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s. The difference is that now people see it for what it is,” said Matthews.

Barry went on to add: “When we talk about lynching, we think about how those people who were lynched were seen as criminals or deviants. The same thing is being done to these victims of police brutality. They’ll say George Floyd was trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill, or the one guy was selling illegal ‘cigs’ outside of a grocery store ... I don’t know. You murdered him.”

“Was selling loose cigarettes really worth the death penalty?” asked Matthews.

Given its prevalence, COVID-19 was also addressed, as each panelist covered different situations they’ve encountered and how things have vastly changed since the pandemic. Barry told a story about being at the farmer’s market with her grandson and an interaction with a woman.

“This lady came up to me and put her face right by the stroller and said, 'Can I see your baby?’ My initial reaction was ‘Hell no!’” said Barry. She recreated her subsequent explanation to the woman: “‘You know ma’am, we’re in a pandemic right now, and I don’t think that is the best idea right now.’ And I can tell she was offended.”

Before COVID-19, that might have been a different exchange, but post-COVID, stories like this seem to be more common. This is why Barry said, “ I believe we will begin to see a lot more people with anxiety and depression.” Matthews added that, “Humans need touch.”

For those unable to attend the live stream, the full panel can be viewed on the university’s YouTube channel, or below.

Dr. Matthews specializes in history, politics and women’s rights. Barry has a master’s degree in social work and is skilled in areas such as leadership, clinical research and non-profit organizations.

“I want to make this an annual series where we meet once a month and talk deeply about diversity and inclusion,” said Mitchell. His primary goal is to reach as many people as possible.

This series, “Diversity Dialogues,” picked back up on Sept. 10 at 12:30 p.m. with a panel called “Summer of Discontent: Lessons Learned. Looking Ahead.” Panelists included Dr. Julaine Field, Dr. Sheila Lorenzo de la Peña, Dr. Adrienne Dixon, and Dr. Jim Fisher. Once again, they were all Edinboro faculty members.

Aaron Pilgrim is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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