Lecture on culture, community to honor late champion of diversity
As a boy, Matthew Whitaker’s grandfather used to admonish him, “Don’t be eyeballin’ me.” It was years before Whitaker realized his relative was imparting a lesson in culture and not just being a grouchy old man.
“In many African American communities, it’s not looked upon kindly to look someone in the eye, especially if it’s a young person looking at an older person,” said Whitaker, an Associate Professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. “Various cultures and groups have ways of communicating that outsiders don’t understand.”
Whitaker will address this problem and offer solutions at the John P. Morris Memorial Lecture at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. His presentation, “Understanding Culture and Building Community,” will begin at noon on Thursday, April 19, in Armstrong Hall, Room 105.
The annual lecture, co-sponsored by the Black Law Students Association, honors John Peyton Morris, a College of Law faculty member from 1968-1993. Morris, who passed away in 1993, was dedicated to justice and equal opportunity and worked throughout his life to promote diversity.
Whitaker, also an Affiliate Faculty member in African and African American Studies and in the School of Justice and Social Inquiry at ASU, said society doesn’t encourage people to take the time to understand each other. In fact, we are a “fifth gear society” that urges us to steamroll others, he said.
“We have to observe more and think more, when what our society has conditioned us to do is act,” Whitaker said. “I suggest approaching situations with a certain level of neutrality and offering deference. A lot of what it is is the Golden Rule.”
Society also tends to lump together Americans in an effort to achieve a goal of colorblindness toward race, he said.
“`We are all Americans, and we are all the same’, when in reality, there are some nuances and difference,” he said.
Dale Pawley, a third-year law student and BLSA’s community affairs officer, said he’s looking forward to hearing Whitaker’s lecture. “It’s excellent to have an eminent scholar, one of the giants in their field, to speak,” Pawley said. “Having an event where we honor someone (Morris) who was truly a pioneer in legal academics in Arizona is really important.”
The lecture is free and open to the public, and lunch will be served. To RSVP, contact Amanda Breaux at (480) 965-6405 or e-mail Amanda.Breaux@asu.edu.