Rita Cameron Wedding’s Livingston Lecture will be remembered in several respects, not the least being the power of her unforgettable presentation Tuesday, Nov. 6, in the University Union Ballroom.
The dynamic director of the Women’s Studies Department and professor of Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies delineated the “Challenge to Colorblindness: Racial Inequality in the 21st Century.” Cameron Wedding focused on specifics barriers to the commonly cited “post-racial society” after Barack Obama’s 2008 election.
“We don’t want to keep talking about race,” Sacramento State Professor Rita Cameron-Wedding reminded an enthralled audience, “because it reveals an underside society would just as soon forget.”
Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez noted in his introductory remarks that University faculty members are willing to confront challenges that face society. And Cameron Wedding didn’t disappoint a packed room of more than 500 attendees.
Shunning the lectern, she spoke from stage front and urged her audience to join in a conversation about race that brings people together. Her high-energy lecture began with an ice-breaking musical number by Shakira as she urged the audience to stand and move to the rhythmic cadences.
Having captivated the crowd, Cameron Wedding then drove home four points about implicit bias, so-called colorblindness, stereotyping and institutional racism. She punctuated each point with personal and statistical examples without preaching to the audience. Instead she displayed a mix of charm and conviction leavened with self-deprecation that connected.
“We don’t want to keep talking about race,” she reminded, “because it reveals an underside society would just as soon forget.” As such, she cautioned that Martin Luther King’s iconic dream that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” is yet to be achieved.
A fully engaged audience followed each of the professor’s points – particularly when she illustrated them with compelling examples, such as a sobbing 5-year-old African American girl being handcuffed in a courtroom by three Caucasian officers for throwing a tantrum. The judge in that case later contacted Cameron Wedding and confirmed that this outrage prompted her to write a book about such overreactions by law enforcement, which the professor held aloft.
Cameron Wedding was awarded a grant from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to assist California public schools in reducing biases in decision-making that could contribute to poor school outcomes such as suspensions, expulsions and contact with juvenile justice. She will also head to Tennessee in January at the invitation of the Department of Justice to discuss a federal investigation of racial discrimination in Shelby County, Tennessee.
Suffice it to say that Rita Cameron Wedding received a standing ovation for delivering a Livingston Lecture that will be long remembered.
– Alan Miller