Alumni News

A Forum on Race, Diversity and Law Enforcement

by Sarah Cushing - University Communications | Oct 07, 2016
Marianne Modica, Ph.D.
Amidst the current turmoil surrounding the issues of race, diversity and law enforcement, two pastors and a UVF professor led a discussion at the Spring City Public Library on Sept. 22, 2016. Professor Marianne Modica, Ph.D., along with Pastor John Holsey, from Spring City Fellowship, and Pastor Abu Bradley, from Rhema Worship Center, facilitated the discussion about violence and division in today's society. Twenty-five community members, representing diverse racial backgrounds, joined the event. “The goal of the public discussion was to hear from the people in the community,” Modica shared. “To learn, from them, what’s happening in the community, and what relations and experiences are like with the police.”  

Holsey asked Modica, a professor of early childhood education, to be part of the non-scripted community forum after learning of her avid research and extensive knowledge and passion on the subjects of race and diversity — especially in education. Modica teaches on the reality of racism in the classroom and has published three books that touch on the subject. Her young adult novel, “The R Word,” surveys race relations among teens and has been used as classroom material. In her research, Modica learned that while schools teach about the country’s history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, students often assume the issue of racism and prejudice was solved, not understanding that it is still a point of conflict in today’s society.

Modica is also a blogger (risforrace.blogspot.com) who writes about her research and books on race and diversity in the classroom and in society. She met one of her readers at the event who spoke about reading one of her posts and how it had shed light on his perception of racism today. She shares her blog posts on social media and connects with friends nationwide to have a conversation about race and diversity. One small post can spark thousands of conversations needed to move culture forward. “With social media, your sphere of influence is bigger than you think it is, so it’s important and we have to keep talking about it,” Modica said.

The facilitators encouraged the attendees to be honest. Modica listened to first-hand accounts of fears, hurts and present-day racism. All of those in attendance spoke openly about a lack of job opportunities for certain individuals, relationships with the police force, relationships between neighbors and hate symbols. The group discussed the root of racism and the present hurt while responding with respect and kindness. Although no one expected resolution on the issues that night, they spoke of what could be done and shared their hope for the next generation. “That’s what we came away with: how do we get this out there, get it in the media and create a culture to create awareness that this [present day racism] is hurting people,” Modica said. 

A community forum is a step toward a long journey to improve the culture for the next generation. The idea is to not hide behind the hard questions or uncomfortable facts, but instead face today's circumstances with compassion and grace to change the way things are. A second community forum is in the planning stages for November and the event will be open to the public.