Diversity and Inclusion week panel discusses discrimination

On Monday, Sept. 28, a lecture titled “Who Am I: What do genes have to do with it?” was held as a part of the UT’s Diversity and Inclusion Week.

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On Monday, Sept. 28, a lecture titled “Who Am I: What do genes have to do with it?” was held as a part of the UT’s Diversity and Inclusion Week.

The panel of speakers discussed identity and when we feel as if discrimination is being a barrier to living the daily life. Panelists included Bharat Mehra, associate professor of Information Sciences, Mark Moussa, realtor for Keller Williams Realty and director of technology, Hubert Smith, executive producer, host of “The Hubert Smith Radio Show” and member of the Associate Leadership Council and Juniper Stinnett,  vocalist and mandolinist of Gutter Blossom.

The moderator, Alice Wirth, lecturer and the School of Communications Studies director, prompted the panelists with questions about how or when they had been made to feel uncomfortable because of who they are.

Moussa, who is an Arab Muslim-American, talked about his first time being discriminated against because of his religion.

“In court proceedings, my ex brought up the fact that I am a flight-risk because I am a Muslim and that my parents could be terrorists,” Moussa said.

He also discussed how he changed his name to “Mark” after a potential client decided to not do business with him because of his race.

Smith, an African-American, was asked if there was anything special about him that made him stand out from others.

“I don’t think that I am different necessarily,” Smith said in response. “But I think that I am unique because I was born at a unique time.”

Smith grew up during the Civil Rights Movement and has seen how much America has changed in such a short period of time.

Wirth asked the panelists if they had any advice on dealing with discrimination and the stress of it.

“I think that it doesn’t matter what color you are or what you believe,” Moussa said. “If you are successful at what you do, then people are going to be attracted to you. Stick to what you do well and just do it.”

“Some people are monsters, but you have to look past that and find the people that care because those people are out there,” Stinnett, who is a transgender woman, said. “Good people do exist and those are the ones you want to be around.”

Mehra, an openly gay faculty member, wanted students going through a difficult journey to realize that they are not alone, and while may seem lonely at times, there are people who are dealing with the same stresses.

Other Diversity and Inclusion Week sessions will be held for the  remainder of the week and can be found online.

Featured image by Ryan McGill

Edited by Courtney Anderson