After the talk by Dr. Juanita Simmons on Tuesday night (February 9, 2016) titled, “Racism in America: Is it Better or Worse”, I was reminded of two things; first, symbols and language in society can have a powerful impact on people. A symbolic interactionist would say that reality is socially constructed through the use of symbols and language. These symbols and language give meaning and value to objects and people within society. In turn, meanings and values influence our interpretations of the world around us.
Dr. Simmons points out that our society has had many negative symbols related to the African-American community: from a time when African Americans were depicted as monkey-like humans with tails, and black-face minstrels, to the present day image of the prison population and police brutality. Modern symbols, she argues, continue to send the same message about African Americans. Second, I am reminded that we, as a community, need to reach out to individuals so that they no longer feel isolated by discrimination; we need to stand up against people who speak ill of the African American community in everyday life. The difference now lies with the younger generation, whose all-inclusive and integrated social relationships, (e.g. roommates, family, friends, children, etc.), can defy negative stereotypes.
I really liked Dr. Simmons’ acronym: SMILE (Stories Mend Intermingling Lives Everywhere). Maybe it’s time to utilize symbols to create a new inclusive community!