Responding to Current Events

Berkeley Connect Ethnic Studies & African American Studies end the semester on a serious note


Students in Berkeley Connect in Ethnic Studies and African American Studies met for the last time to discuss the events unfolding across the country and here in the Bay Area. With Mentor Wanda Alarcón, students shared their thoughts on Ferguson, Eric Garner, and the impact of social media and mainstream media.

Wanda began by asking students about Ferguson and the Eric Garner case. “How are people talking about it?,” she asked. “Where are you all getting your news?” For one student, it was in his home, where his politically active mother encouraged conversation. For others, it was within their friend circles and from social media. They use Twitter and Instagram  and Snapchat to share stories about the protests and get recent updates.

Wanda also asked students to share their thoughts on the shift from the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter. One student was supportive of the shift, noting that police brutality was not a black-white issue, but one that affects all communities of color. Another student pointed out that while she agreed, people need to acknowledge and recognize that right now, it is a Black issue.

In addition, students chimed in on their own use of social media. Many admitted that they had mixed feelings about social media, and one student said she felt more comfortable discussing these issues in person. Wanda noted that the Internet first began with the hope that it would be an equalizer. “But it also unleashed a lot of bigotry, in the form of what a lot of people call ‘trolling’ today,” she said. Another student felt that social media was better for raising awareness, but not for having serious conversations.

Another topic that the group explored was the role of the media. “The news is mediated,” Wanda said, asking students whether they saw a dominant story in the way current events in Ferguson and across the country are being reported. One student felt that there were many stories and felt it was difficult to isolate one. Another felt that it was police brutality that was being pushed to the forefront. “There are a lot of powerful images in the media right now that helps to tell the story,” he said.  Another student admitted that she went to international and alternative media in order to find more unbiased reporting, and yet another student shared her frustration in the way the media often focused not on the issues, but on the looting and violence.

As the semester drew to a close, Wanda encouraged Berkeley Connect students to continue speaking out. “I’m glad you are participating in the conversation.”

posted by Katherine Wang
Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant