By: Michael Galfetti
Thanks to SAIL’s generous full-funding, I was able to take my research to Washington University at St. Louis and listen to excellent scholar activists who were “ready to be free”. Throughout the conference, I witnesses the most optimism I have seen on a stage since the election of Donald Trump. The women who sat on the Ferguson panel, and yes, they were all women, had their hands on the long arm of the universe and were bending it towards justice—without holding back. They candidly stated that they were ‘likely to be run over laying down in front of an immigration bus’ but were pleased with the progress in the opening of American consciousness towards the gross inequities our society has (always) perpetuated. All that to say, I enjoyed the Ferguson panel. Those women gave one of the most important lectures of my college career; they were open, loving, hard-working, respectful, freedom fighters. It feels egotistical to comment on my own research in line with theirs so I will start a new paragraph.
My presentation was attended by about 30 people (students and administrators (mainly students)) and we dialogued about the role emotions have to play in replacing truth—focusing around the 2017 election. Together we were able to build a new model for understanding conversations about political truths. There are experiences universal to all people; the example we used was the feeling of being judged. Then there are individual experiences of being judged; this is a subjective and highly personal experience. Lastly, there is the objective, numerical, piece of being judged in society; do the “facts” show that black people are more likely to be arrested for the same crime as white people? (yes) In creating this model together the group was able to see how commentators—the media—are navigating conversations concerning issues of social justice. What arguments are salient in communities? What “truths” are individuals believing and why are they believing it? Are questions open to investigation under this model precisely because it recognizes the use of emotional charged rhetoric that may be relying on a shared history of people. It is a little like the old maxim: if you say anything enough it becomes true. Except it fills in more after the period “if you say anything enough it becomes true because it connects to personal myths and stories that are shared among communities”.
The opportunities of the 2017 IMPACT conference were thought-provoking and professional-advancing. Thank you to the office of Social Action and Integrative Learning for the opportunity and support.