University hosts NAACP president Ben Jealous
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 01:09
The Humanities and the Center for American and World Cultures welcomed the President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Benjamin Jealous to Miami University Wednesday to speak on “The Civil Rights Movement and the Humanities.”
After an introduction by President David Hodge, Jealous gave his lecture to a packed auditorium in which he connected the history and philosophy of the Humanities to the foundation of the civil rights movement.
Appointed as president at age 35, Jealous is the youngest leader in the NAACP’s history. During his term, Jealous enhanced the organization’s focus on economic issues and voter mobilization, opened national programs on education, health and environmental issues, and led successful campaigns to abolish the death penalty for children and prevent prison rape.
Director of the Humanities Tim Melley said he might have been the most important person to come here in the last couple years.
The Humanities department said they were especially thrilled that Jealous’ lecture could help students connect central values of their liberal education to the real human struggle for justice and equality in the United States.
“Without a clear philosophy, a deep sense of history and a poetic ability to move people from their seats to the streets, there would not have been a civil rights movement,” Melley said. “The Humanities Center is delighted to have a prominent national leader come to campus to talk to us about the crucial link between the humanities and social justice.”
To Jealous, the most powerful discipline of the humanities for winning victories in social justice is history.
“If we forget our history, we repeat things,” Jealous said. “And the history of the civil rights movement quite frankly is of overcoming things that we have no business repeating.
Jealous continued his lecture by talking about how one of the most repeated problems in history is that of racial or gender profiling. Racial profiling has been the culprit of many crimes that may have been prevented or solved such as the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford in 1975 by a woman when only men were suspect, or the stereotyping of youth in the inner city of New York today.
Jealous said when you insert race into the equation, the blinders go up. He emphasized that people do need profiles, however, they need to be based not on race, image or gender, but behavior.
As he finished his lecture, Jealous advised all that the first step in preventing racial profiling was to give up on the spirit of racism by preventing ignorant language and to fight to rid our generation and the generations that follow of the bias towards other races that are instilled in many of us at childhood.
“The idea of historical precedent of the humanities working with the civil rights movement was incredibly interesting,” sophomore Ian Anderson said at the end of the lecture. “Every example he cited of how racial profiling was used as a blinder was completely true and completely preventable.”