Everyone is a Witness to their Own Silence
The Dutchess Community College Communications Society hosts screenings on Monday
nights from 5:30-7:00 pm in The James & Betty Hall Theatre. This semester’s theme is “Racism
in America”. After the presentation, the audience members are to reflect and discuss their
opinions on the film. The discussion was to be lead by students, but in this case members of the
faculty dominated the conversation.
The January 22nd screening was I’m Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck’s documentary based
on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House. Peck used historical footage
to shed light on Baldwin’s perspective on the black experience in the United States. During the
discussion, Professors Jordan Bell and Willie Morris opened the conversation by expressing how
the documentary made an impression on them by reflecting their own experiences. Regarding the
racial slurs used by bigoted police, politicians, and others, Professor Morris said, “Everyone is a
witness (to racism); who’s willing to accept (that)?” Of the 30 or more students in the audience,
only a few felt obligated to participate in the conversation. Although the purpose was for
students to take control of the discussion, the faculty members had no choice but to lead the way.
According to Professor Bell, the students had “glazed looks in their eyes” and wanted to leave,
but if they did they wouldn’t earn credit for attending. He believed that the student’s lack of
energy caused the teachers there to eventually lose interest in the conversation.