STORY BY JESSICA LYNK
Turning the news on, students can see the turmoil throughout the country involving police brutality.
From Ferguson to Cleveland to Baltimore, protests have surged throughout the country making it apparent that racism is a matter of concern for some Americans.
One man, Richard Rothstein, is trying to figure out where this unrest comes from. Rothstein explored the idea that the unrest began long ago in government implemented policies and plans during his lecture for the fourth Sussman Lecture series last Thursday.
“The reality is, segregation was purposely created by the federal, state, and local governments, and it’s going to take those federal, state and local governments to create equally purposeful policy to desegregate our metropolitan areas,” Rothstein said.
Hosted by the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement, Rothstein delivered his speech called “Beyond the Invisible Fence: The Making of Ferguson and Baltimore” in Sussman Theater.
Rothstein, who has worked for the Economic Policy Institute for 25 years, has worked on education policy and racial segregation, which could be seen throughout his speech.
“I’m not suggesting simply desegregating our schools will close the achievement gap, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Rothstein said.
Rothstein also discussed how the history of segregation has led to incidents like Ferguson.
“The most important step is the American people need to educate themselves about the history of how (segregation) happened,” Rothstein said. “Because so long as people feel like it happened by accident, they’re going to think it can only be undone by accident, not by explicit policy.”
Earlier in the day, Rothstein stopped by to talk to the First Year Seminar “#_____livesmatter: people’s movement for freedom,” which allowed Rothstein and students to have a conversation.
Junior Jackie Heymann, the Peer Mentor Academic Consultant for the class, attended the class and the lecture.
“He definitely approached it with more of an academic approach than from a social justice where ‘he’s aware of his whiteness’ approach, but I thought it was a very informative lecture,” Heymann said.
For Heymann, Rothstein was a good introduction for the course.
“It was a very good jumping off point for them to start thinking critical about social issues,” Heymann said.
First year Cecilia Bernard, who is in the FYS that heard him spoke, was encouraged by his speech.
“Mr. Rothstein was very insightful and passionate about his work at the Economic Policy Institute, which in turn, made me feel inspired and motivated to continue his efforts,” Bernard said.
Thinking critically about the history is something Rothstein challenged in his speech.
“We can’t remedy this situation if we do not acknowledge the history that led us here.”