NAACP meeting discusses importance of words

Emma Polen | layout manger. Ilani Moye, an entrepreneurship senior and president of Duquesne's NAACP chapter, welcomes everyone to the meeting in Rockwell Hall last week.

Emma Polen | layout manager

Oct. 7, 2021

Words are a powerful form of advocating for a cause. Words have the ability to show compassion toward a group or individual, but they also have the power to harm others. 

On Sept. 29 at 5 p.m., about a dozen members joined the NAACP chapter at Duquesne and held a meeting to discuss “The Power of Words: The Effect of Slurs, Stereotypes, and Insults.”

Ilani Moye, the president of the Duquesne NAACP chapter and a senior entrepreneurship student, prefaced the meeting’s open discussion when she said, “This is a safe environment for all of us to share those viewpoints. So I want everyone to be respectful of everyone’s viewpoints.”

After introducing themselves, the executive board for Duquesne’s NAACP defined slurs, stereotypes, and insults. When asked who had encountered one of these harmful words, almost everyone in the room raised their hand. 

Justine Martin is a senior International Relations and Political Science dual major and also the event planner for the NAACP Duquesne chapter. She shared her experience that minorities have a harder time making a good first impression because of stereotyping.

“I think the sad part about minorities and people of color having to put [on] our best impression for others, in some way it diminishes the gifts and talents that we know we already have for the sake of making other people aware of our gifts and talents or just on a base level, just making people feel comfortable around us,” Martin said.

Martin also said that there are very few other African Americans in her International Relations major. This means that while she feels an obligation to make other people comfortable around her, the feeling is not always returned.

“Sometimes I am the only person of color in my classes,” she said. “So it can be a little jarring.”  

Myles Wilson, a junior Integrated Marketing Communications major and public relations chair for the organization, echoed Martin’s words and shared that he attended a high school that was a PWI (predominately white institution). 

“I have been in PWI’s for a long time,” Myles said. 

With this lack of racial minority representation, it can often be hard not to feel extra attention in the classroom. 

Antonia Allen, Duquesne NAACP’s secretary and junior political science major, shared her opinion of the current situation of PWI’s: “It doesn’t feel like there’s much staff and teachers and professors that are on our side. When racial issues happen on our campus, nothing’s really done.”

In response to Allen’s statement, Wilson suggested an action for overcoming ignorance. 

“You have to be willing to empathize with somebody else or hear what somebody else has to say,” Wilson said.

There are a variety of ways to connect with others to understand their experiences, he continued. 

The executive board suggested a few books on race relations. They included Ibrem Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist” and “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker” by Damon Young, a local memoir writer. Martin also spoke highly of Isabella Wilkerson’s “Caste.” 

“[The novel] illustrates how the American experience is built on the caste system similar to India. But it’s not based on the credence of religion, it’s based on the credence of race,” Martin said.

NAACP officers wants students at Duquesne to know everybody comes from different backgrounds and educations, but being part of the conversation is important. When advocating as an ally, Martins reminded the audience to “do it from a place of empathy.”

The next meeting for the NAACP is expected to be held the week of Oct. 17, with the date to be announced on Instagram  @NAACPDUQ. The organization will be partnering with Duquesne’s Black Student Union for Black Cultural Awareness Week.