SOU Celebrates Race Awareness Week

Matika Wilbur (Left) and Dayna Bowen Matthew (Left) both gave lectures during the week. Photo from Inside SOU

“Inclusion and acceptance cannot happen without awareness,” explained Marvin Woodard, the Multicultural Resource Center Coordinator. This past week, Southern Oregon University celebrated Race Awareness Week through a series of events catered to “…exposing our campus to the types of policies and systems people of color have to navigate,” according to Woodard.

By the end of the week, Woodard noted the events were “…mostly educational with some celebratory parts.” He said, “Racial Awareness Week can offer a brave venue for talking about topics that may come off as taboo or difficult.”  

The two most publicized events of the week were guest lectures from activists Dayna Bowen Matthew and Matika Wilbur.

Dayna Bowen Matthew Lecture. Photo by: Maggie Alvarez

Dayna Bowen Matthew, a lawyer who focuses on public health, spoke on Nov. 6 about the concept of implicit bias and how it has affected the medical industry. Bowen Matthew defined implicit bias as the unconscious stereotypes humans make about one another.

Through a series of research, Bowen Matthew showed her audience how white patients receive better resources and a more active response time from doctors than patients of color. Though she clarified that “…implicit bias is not racism, it can have the same effect,” before showing evidence of 84,000 people of color who were unnecessarily killed due to this phenomena.

Ending her lecture on a hopeful note, she insisted, “We can do something about the way we think, even if it’s unconscious.” If people become more “…humble, mindful, and internally motivated,” said Bowen Matthew, unnecessary deaths and hatred will be eliminated from our society

On Nov. 8, Matika Wilbur, a Swinomish and Tulalip Indian, described her experienced capturing and reinvigorating Native American culture through her photography project: Project 562. She said that the main goal of her program is to “…change the way we see Native America.”  

Matika Wilbur Lecture. Photo by: Maggie Alvarez

She began this mission when she realized the students she taught on her Indian Reservation in Washington, were not given a proper education on their culture. She said society branded their people as “…leathered and feathered,” and she did not want her students to continue identifying their culture in that way. She wanted them to “…be who [they] were born to be” and “…be allowed to dream.”

This led to her journey all across America immortalizing the true spirit of Native American culture through her photography. Wilbur photographed the people, and each image had a powerful story behind it. Throughout her travels, she learned, “[Native Americans] didn’t forget who [they] are.” She continued, “we are allowed to dream.”

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