Event Review: Watch the video.
3:01 p.m., Oct. 15, 2015―Author, journalist and University of Delaware alumnus Peter Bailey advocates an honest discussion on race that would replace the misconceptions and divisions that seem to define racial relations in America today.
Bailey shared his experiences as a UD undergraduate student, journalist, and host of the docu-series NiteCap with Peter Bailey during a National Agenda 2015 “Race in America” presentation held Wednesday, Oct. 14, in Mitchell Hall.
“I came to UD from the Virgin Islands, and it was a great experience in the sense that it challenged my comfort zone and that of my peers,” Bailey said. “It changed my life.”
Bailey said that America can no longer postpone its urgent need to establish a racial dialogue built on honesty and trust and respect for all of its citizens.
“We are at a critical time in history,” Bailey said. “We have a thing in this country about why we hate other people. Intelligence is the way to understand each other.”
During a question and answer segment moderated by Lindsay Hoffman, associate director of UD’s Center for Political Communication and director of the National Agenda series, Bailey fielded queries on a wide range of topics, including the traditional media and the emerging importance of social media as an information delivery system.
The established media have done a good job of promoting every single racial stereotype, while the public seems to be unaware or unconcerned, Bailey said.
“We like to use labels, because this allows us to think that some people are better than others,” Bailey said. “If we are not aware, I wonder where we are going to be 10 years from now. If you are aware, you understand the crisis that is upon us.”
Current political dialogue and discussion on issues including race relations seems driven by those with strongly held differences, with little meaningful conversation taking place, Bailey said.
“I really believe that everything that is exists because it’s something that we have created,” Bailey said. “Life is a constant battle against disbelief. I’ve also learned that hate doesn’t get anything but hate, right up to the point when a person dies.”
Americans, Bailey said, spend hours consuming reality television and sports programing, while serious situations like the continuing human rights crisis in Syria get only passing attention, at best.
The attraction to these shows, Bailey said, is that many people live from paycheck to paycheck, and watching these shows keeps them from thinking about their lives and how things really are in the community and around the world.
“We empower these people with our dollars by watching them,” Bailey said. “Things like the situation in Syria are very serious, but we spend our days following these people.”
Bailey said he believes that humans usually want to have the best possible outcomes, and the people who make a difference are the ones who get out of their own comfort zones.
Optimism and awareness
“We need to show them that there is more love than hate in the world,” Bailey said. “I’m an optimist about the future because I think kids today are more aware about what is really going on.”
Part of this awareness is due to the open access available online through various social media tools, Bailey said.
“The Internet has created more democracy and has given people more power, because there are no more gatekeepers,” Bailey said. “Social media is a tool. This generation has more tools, but you have to ask, ‘Where do they get their information from?’”
While individuals have the power to change themselves, the rhetoric regarding race in America needs to change, Bailey said.
“How are we going to have a conversation if everybody wants to have a fight?” Bailey asked. “Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing if we could reach a point where we are just called human beings.”
About the series
The 2015 National Agenda series has as its theme “Race in America.” It includes six speakers and four films designed to stimulate conversations about equality and identity, all scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in Mitchell Hall on the UD campus in Newark. Presentations are free and open to the public.
The next presentation on Oct. 21 and will feature Maz Jobrani, comedian and author of I’m Not a Terrorist, But I’ve Played One on TV. Jobrani is a founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour and has had two Showtime specials. He performs stand-up all over the world and his best-selling book was published this year and will be available for purchase.
The next film screening on Oct. 28 is Bamboozled, the 2000 work by Spike Lee about television executives who produce a modern version of a minstrel show with racist imagery and language. To their horror, the show becomes a huge success, leading to a tragic downfall for the creators.
The director of the National Agenda series is Lindsay Hoffman, associate director of UD's Center for Political Communication.
National Agenda is supported by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Provost, the Center for the Study of Diversity and the William P. Frank Foundation of Delaware.
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photo by Duane Perry