On Wednesday, the Office of Multicultural Affairs held an open forum as part of their Brown Bag Discussion series. The topic was “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin,” and dealt with heavy questions involving race, the biggest one being “how does skin color affect our lives, even in a society as liberal as ours?”
To begin answering this question and more, all attendees were first separated by the controversial “brown bag” test. Their skin color was compared to the color of a light brown paper bag. Those who were darker were on one side of the room, and those who were lighter sat on the other.
Program Coordinator Danielle Johnson explained how this exercise had real world implications.
“If you were joining an organization, and the last step was the bag test to determine where you would be in the organization, how would that play out?” asked Johnson.
The participants were then shown a series of videos on the controversial topic of skin bleaching, in which those who are of darker complexions try to gain a lighter skin tone by often painful, illegal means. Such issues evoked strong reactions from those in attendance.
“Some people just aren’t happy with who they are,” said WSU senior Brandon Genao.
Genao, who is both black and Hispanic, explained his own struggles with his identity.
“When I fill out job applications, and they ask my race, I used to just put black, but recently I’ve started putting both,” Genao said. “It’s just a part of who I am and should be respected.”
Program Coordinator Natalie Toney explained why it’s important to respect one’s own ethnicity and the ethnicity of others, and how viewing each other as anything but fellow human beings is harmful.
“[prejudice] is something that has become a little more accepted in our culture, when it was once something that was killing our culture,” Toney said.
For more information on the Brown Bag discussion series, and to hear about other upcoming events, Johnson and Toney can be reached at (316) 978-6190, and (316) 978-7006, respectively.