On Friday, Oct. 5, the Keynote Panel for the “Ethics Here and Now: Racial Justice, Reproductive Justice, Climate Justice” symposium took place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business event hall. The hall was fully packed.

Sara Brill, Ph.D., the chair of the philosophy department at Fairfield, and Nels Pearson, Ph.D., chair of the humanities department at Fairfield, discussed the connections between ethics and the Ignatian Values of global spirituality and commitment to truth and justice, before introducing the panelists Myisha Cherry, Ph.D., Ashwini Tambe, Ph.D. and Kyle Whyte, Ph.D.

Myisha Cherry, associate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, said that her work and research responds to injustice, being black in the United States and to the role of emotions in shaping lives.

“Growing up, I was a witness to my mother’s emotions, to her anger, her sadness, her joy, her hope,” Cherry said. “Over time, I noticed that a person’s emotions were received differently based on whether a person is black, white, wealthy, poor.”

Cherry further spoke about her idea of being a “rage renegade,” how one must use anger at injustice to further action and create a positive change.

Ashwini Tambe, associate professor of women’s studies at the University of Maryland, said that her work concerns law, sexuality and changing definitions of girlhood in different countries. 

“Who gets to enjoy girlhood?” Tambe asked the audience, which led into a discussion of how girls of color and black boys today are seen as prematurely adult beyond their years. 

Tambe also discussed her investigation of the rise of liberalism alongside the creation of empires and how the idea of the excluded other increases the belonging for those in the main group. 

“This marginalization results in two approaches for those who have been marginalized: those who seek healing and seek hope, and those who have not even begun to deal with their pain,” Tambe said.

“It’s a long process [of healing and change] and to expect that it will happen overnight is a form of pain avoidance, often by people in power.” 

Kyle Whyte, professor of philosophy and community sustainability and the Timnick Chair in the Humanities at Michigan State University, spoke about his work investigating the harmful infliction of climate change. 

“Climate science is the oldest form of science. Native Americans knew that energy came from the earth, and they always treated it well,” said Whyte, who is Potawatomi and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

When the settlers came, Whyte said, they used the earth without thinking of the consequences, starting the process of climate change.

Today, clean energy solutions are devaluing communities of color by refusing to ask for their input and suggestions, ultimately harming communities of color. 

“Colonialism still exists…Students at colleges like this one need to advocate that professors and administrators change the coursework to tell the actual histories of the land and to actually talk about what people do to achieve change and transformation, that are often times silenced,” said Whyte. 

Tambe said that climate change, racial injustice and reproductive injustice are problems faced simultaneously by many people. 

“Framing them as single issues is a luxury few can afford,” Tambe noted. 

When Madison Terrill ‘21 asked the panelists what inspired them to create change, Whyte said that people should focus on creating change because the change matters to them, regardless of the perceived recognition.

“Too many people thwart their impact…by being hyper-concerned about recognition,” Whyte said.

Cherry brought about the idea of emotions as a motive for change. “Stop being complicit. Hold people accountable. Do something about it.”

About The Author

Contributing Writer

Mimi Loughlin is a recent graduate of Fairfield University, where she majored in English/ Digital Journalism.

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