The Color of Fear: A conversation on racism


Ellie SherryReporter

As a university that strives for social justice, Southern has multiple events throughout the semester to talk about difficult topics. At the event “The Color of Fear” the conversation was based around issues of race.

“The Color of Fear” is a film that was released in the early 90s by LeeMun Wah. According to Dr. Laurie Bonjo, an assistant professor in the counseling and school psychology department, he created the film to capture the way that, in the United States, systemic racism encourages people to react to differences in skin color with the emotional response of fear.

“To work through this fear, it is essential that we have discussions wherein we unpack the racism that drives it,” Bonjo said, “Again, the film provides opportunities to prepare facilitators for what they will encounter in the range of reactions participants may have when these topics come up.”

Students of all backgrounds and ethnicities came to be a part of the discussion about racism and the fear of color within the U.S. One of these people was graduate student in the counseling and school psychology program Jay Holt.

“I heard about the event through the school psychology program emails, but wanted to attend because I was hoping to engage in honest dialogue about race relations. I didn’t know the event was predominantly the movie, but it was a pleasant surprise,” said Holt.

Throughout the viewing, Bonjo stopped the film to talk about critical statements or points that she felt should be discussed with the audience. One of these instances was after one of the men in the film, Gordon Clay, said, “I am here because I am a racist, and I’m trying to unlearn that.”

Bonjo later addressed this when talking about the differences between two of the people in the film and where they are in their identity development. Bonjo said that while Clay might have admitted to being racist, he knows it and is trying to unlearn that behavior that he was taught. Meanwhile the other character was actively making offputting comments about race.

Bonjo also talked about the importance of continuing these conversations.

“The main reason, is because we won’t see change happen without [conversations.] Social injustice will persist unless we generate discourse that leads to action at the individual, institutional and societal levels. Our students at Southern will benefit from experiences that train them to ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

“With this sort of training, our students can be the ones in their communities who show up prepared to get messy while addressing the tough stuff, rather than avoiding opportunities to engage in these sorts of conversations out of fear.”

As November is Social Justice Month, this was one of the first events to kick start the discussions that social justice requires.

“It’s a shame,” said Holt. “hat a film from 1993 can still be shown today as a relevant piece.”

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