Last week, as part of Oberlin College’s celebration of Black History Month, I had the honor of hosting and moderating a panel discussion on Black Athletes, Activism, and the Media.
The panelists included Kevin Blackistone (@ProfBlackistone), Louis Moore (@LouMoore12), Sarah Jackson (@sjjphd), and Jimmy King (@jimmyking24). As you’ll see, in exploring the issue, our guests complicated our ways of thinking about this issue by drawing our attention to its deep and complex history, the cultural, technological, and economic forces that both fuel and constrain the phenomenon, and the important forces for change that we often lose sight of by allowing the conversation to remain focused too narrowly on those statements and actions undertaken by the most celebrated Black male athletes and so reported by the media. But they also complicated by our thinking by showing us that this issue is not primarily about understanding injustice and thinking our way to action: it’s about allowing ourselves to feel and to trust so to be moved to action, in small and large ways.
As I said in my opening remarks, these are difficult financial times at the College and I find it heartening that even so we continue to invest in the kind of programming that liberal arts colleges are uniquely suited to offer their students: adventurous discussion on pressing and controversial issues—informed by the thoughtful work of scholars from different disciplines and the perspectives of participants and public intellectuals; all intentionally aimed at engaging and challenging our students and colleagues to expand the realm of truth, freedom and equality in this world and to imagine a better future for all. These panelists, and the students, faculty, staff, and community members who showed up to listen to and engage with them, far exceeded even these high expectations for what this event could be. Certainly, I found the event intellectually informative and stimulating. But more importantly, because of the emotional vulnerability and authenticity of those present, I most of experienced this event as an opening and stirring of my heart.