University News

Forum discusses relation between race and sex

Contributing Writer
Monday, November 5, 2012

A group of around 20 students gathered on the sofas of the Third World Center Formal Lounge to share and learn from their personal experiences of dating, sexual attraction and racial identity Nov. 1.  

Part of the Multiracial Heritage Series, the annual LGBTQ Interracial Dating Forum aimed to provide an intimate discussion on the intersections of race, sexuality and dating within the LGBTQ community, said Krishnanand Kelkar ’15, co-programmer of the series. This year’s theme for the series is “Spreading the Loving” – a play on words on the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case, which made interracial marriages legal in the United States. 

“Part of (the forum) is to create a space for the queer community to come together and just talk about issues that are affecting their community,” said Mary Grace Almandrez, director of the TWC and assistant dean of the college. “I think that’s important to create that space, but I also think it allows people to delve deeper into underlying issues that may not always be at the forefront, such as racism within the queer community.”

Kelkar said he thinks the relevance of the interracial dating forum is sometimes brought into question. “One of the questions always at the general forum and the LGBTQ one is, ‘Do we even need this nowadays?'” Kelkar said. “I think the idea in general is to always be expanding our minds and not trying to rely upon our prejudices. It’s to break down those prejudices.” He added that events like these forums allow participants to deconstruct those biases.

“I think the more that we have forums to talk about (interracial dating) and to be really open and honest about peoples’ experiences with interracial dating, the more we become comfortable talking about it in other avenues of our lives, whether that be with our families or in other settings,” Almandrez said. 

The layout of the LGBTQ Interracial Dating Forum differs from that of the general Interracial Dating Forum, which was postponed due to last week’s hurricane and will take place Nov. 15. The general forum draws a larger crowd and includes a table of panelists who come to share their experiences with the audience. The LGBTQ forum’s smaller attendance allows for a more intimate conversation.

Following individual introductions, conversation was sparked by an activity in which participants were scattered across the lounge. With their eyes closed, they were instructed to clap in response to a list of statements on race, sexuality and prejudice if a particular statement applied to their own lives. The participants were divided into small group conversations following the activity and then moved into large discussion for the remainder of the evening. 

“(The activity) gives you an idea of who’s in the room and how they feel, without having to reveal exactly who said it,” said Hisa Hashisaka ’14, co-programmer of the series. 

The hour-long conversation that followed the activity encompassed issues specifically pertaining to interracial dating, but also extended beyond that context. Participants spoke of intolerance, discrimination and the differences between the Brown community and their communities back home. 

Vanessa Flores-Maldonado ’14, a forum attendee, said she thinks more members of the Brown community should participate in TWC events. “I think it’s always great when you have these different opinions come together and see them manifest, and you have opposing opinions at times. It’s very important for the larger community here to be involved,” she said. 

Another forum participant, Darien Rosa ’15, said he appreciated the opportunity to talk about the intersection of race and sexuality. As a biracial individual, he said “it’s important to go to an event that’s about these sort of dynamics and how desire and race are related. Also, adding queerness into that, how those dynamics might change.” 

Both the LGBTQ and general Interracial Dating Forums were initiated in 2002, said Jon Sebastian-Walkes, program associate at the TWC, adding that as of the last academic year, the Multiracial Heritage Series is now a year-long series of events. In previous years, it was condensed into one week. 

The general Interracial Dating Forum will include six panelists who will answer a structured set of questions as well as questions from the audience. Barbara Tannenbaum, senior lecturer in theater arts and performance studies, will host the event.

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