By Lasha Banks
On September 25, 2018 Dr. Kelly Veal, assistant professor of clinical mental health counseling services, and Dr. Justin Muller, the newly appointed assistant professor of clinical mental health counseling sciences, presented “Understanding the Need for Groups Such as BLM.”
This event examined the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement’s origins and offered guidance and encouragement to students affected by the deaths of unarmed, innocent African American citizens. This cultural enrichment event was held in Turner Hall’s Bailey Room.
The presentation opened with a showing of the docu-film “Rest in Power,” which emphasizes the reality of police brutality and the excessive use of police force. Dr. Muller encouraged questions throughout the presentation.
“Everyone’s opinion is important and we want everyone to feel comfortable sharing their opinions today,” Dr. Muller stated.
Dr. Muller discussed the death of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot to death during a police stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on July 6th, 2016. Dr. Muller asked, “Because I am a black male, does that mean I am inherently dangerous? Because I did everything I was supposed to and you were still threatened by me.”
Dr. Veal’s portion of the presentation emphasized the reality and validity of prejudice and racism. Citizens of privilege ignoring or being unaware of the parts they play is at the core of the issues presented by Black Lives Matter protesters.
After presenting briefly about her own role and responsibilities as an ally to the movement, Dr. Veal said, “We should care about this. As a white woman, I was completely unaware of my privilege. I didn’t have to think about [any of these issues].”
Dr. Veal spoke about her method of reaching out with empathy and understanding to the people who misunderstand the BLM movement. She tries to initiate difficult conversations in her personal and professional life.
Dr. Veal said, “I share a lot of my experiences and stories. Stories are powerful.”
When questioned after the event on how to separate shame from the awareness of privilege, Dr. Veal responded, “I am learning how to be a better ally every time I talk with [Dr. Muller]. I am privileged. When you own your own stuff, it takes the shame from the individual.”
I share a lot of my experiences and stories. Stories are powerful.
-Dr. Kelly Veal, Assistant Professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling
When questioned on what he wanted participants of the cultural enrichment event to take from the presentation, Dr. Muller said, “As a defense, oftentimes we choose to ignore an issue and pretend it doesn’t exist rather than accept the part that [we] play.”
He continued, “Because we can’t find a solution, don’t say these issues don’t exist. That’s the most frustrating and hurtful thing.”
Lasha Banks (’20) is an English Literature major.