With the hopes to create an intimate, safe space for students, faculty, and staff to come together, have fellowship, learn, and discuss issues of race, Professor Rodrigo Serrao started a weekly event called Casual Conversations on Race at the Keppel House for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. The hour and a half, every Thursday starting at 2:00 PM, has covered themes such as: Racism and Christianity in the United States, Health Disparities for Black Community during COVID, and Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and Racism during the Covid pandemic.

It has been gratifying to be in a space where good in-depth learning and discussion can take place with other eager individuals who care deeply about race, racism, and its history. The snacks are also a great plus!

The mix of informative documentaries, presentations, and discussions leads to the ideal mix of learning, reflection, and discussion. I have been amazed at how much knowledge I have received week after week about the history of race and racism and how we are all still impacted by them in many ways. Being in an intimate group has overall allowed everyone to feel comfortable disclosing their personal experiences, opinions, and understanding of specific topics. 

For example, in Week 5: AAPI and Racism during the Covid pandemic, I learned so much about the history of Asian Americans including the existence of Angel Island and the work of actress Anna May Wong. The documentary presented gave me insight into a racial group that I have not been able to learn much about partly because of the constant stigma that Asian Americans are the model minority. Additionally, I was able to learn from a Hope student about the high impact Covid had on AAPI in relation to Asian hate.

Having the opportunity to learn about other racial groups, hear their experience, and learn about the history of oppression and marginalization helps me grow as an individual who cares about diversity. I am conscious and aware of issues within my own Latinx identity, and because of this I am grateful that Professor Serrao takes the time to focus on different racial groups and bring his expertise into discussions. I have learned so much about other racial groups and even my own. One thing that I have constantly been able to reflect upon is the many similarities there are between various racial groups in terms of experiences of racism and oppression. This reflection only fuels the importance and need there is to be agents of change for a more just society. 

I am excited to continue attending the Casual Conversations on Race! I hope to see anyone interested in learning and growing on issues of race at Keppel!

Here is a list of the upcoming topics Professor Serrao has planned: 

  • Native American Heritage Month (Thursday, November 4, 2:00 PM, Keppel House)
  • Semester Reflection and Brainstorming (Thursday, November 11, 2:00 PM, Keppel House)

Nancy Sierra is the Graduate Intern for the Phelps Scholars Program at Hope College. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Nancy moved to Holland to attend Hope in 2016. She graduated as a Communications major in 2020 and started working for the Phelps Scholars Program this fall. Nancy also serves as the advisor for the Latino Student Organization, along with Professor Serrao and Officer Rios.

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