Journalists discuss race and racism in America at FDU

NJSS race panel

(L to R) Professor of Education Khyati Joshi moderated a Q&A with journalists Michele Norris and Jason Riley. Junior Timisha Johnson introduced the speakers. (Photo by W. Scott Giglio)

By Kenna Caprio

“There’s a lot to be learned from a spirited back-and-forth,” said columnist Jason Riley, at a panel discussion on race and racism with journalist Michele Norris at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus. And college, both speakers emphasized, is one of the best places to listen, think, opine and speak up, especially about provocative issues.

“This is where that debate is supposed to take place,” said Norris. “This is the moment to look around and learn … how to listen and how to engage in a conversation.”

Riley and Norris acknowledged the difficulties associated with talking about race and racism.

Bringing up those topics can “clear a room,” said Norris, which is why she started The Race Card Project after writing her memoir, The Grace of Silence. The project “forces you to distill your thoughts” into six words, she said. Initially, she printed 200 postcards and about 30% came back with answers. Norris would leave the postcards at bookstores, airports and college campuses. “It’s a strange and simple way to share,” she said. People could “give voice to things they found difficult to say.”

Riley cautioned students against staying in their comfort zone. “Our college campuses were the birthplace of free speech,” he said. We need to continue to “expose students to a different way of thinking about the issues,” he added, and allow them to form their own opinions, encouraging them to confront difficult and polarizing topics.

Professor of Education Khyati Joshi moderated the Q&A, asking the speakers questions from students in her Race, Religion and the Law class including: “When reporting on racial incidents, do you believe the media always tells the whole story?” and “Do you believe that conversations about race today take into account other social identities?” and “Why would white folks want to give up the privileges they have to build a more equitable society?”

Junior psychology student Timisha Johnson introduced Riley, Norris and Joshi.

Norris is a former host of NPR’s “All Things Considered” and creator of The Race Card Project, and Riley is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and author of the book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.

Later in the evening, the two joined Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J., for a panel on racism at the New Jersey Speakers Series, presented by FDU.