Lecture by Juan Williams of Fox News sparks conversation about ‘living history’ of civil rights

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Juan Williams at Colgate

Juan Williams speaks at Love Auditorium. (Photo by Zoe Zhong ’17)

Journalist and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams spoke on campus recently about the “living History” of the civil rights movement and the relationship between race and police forces in America, which he called one of the most central issues in American life.

Williams delivered his lecture titled “Are You Baffled? Race and Law Enforcement in America” in Love Auditorium on Thursday, February 19.

He discussed how the history of civil rights in America is being written every day, constantly infused with moments of triumph and tragedy. He asked the audience to be open to real dialogue about the modern civil rights movement, a conversation he finds is often divided along racial lines and political expression, suggesting that there is very little common ground.

“I understand how the history of black people in America is not simply a dry topic preserved on the pages of a book,” said Williams. “This is a talking book, this is a living book. People are interacting with that history, there is always dialogue with regard to that history, there is always tension with regard to that history.”

A question-and-answer period following the lecture allowed attendees to ask Williams questions about race in America today and about issues surrounding systematic racial discrimination, opportunities for minority groups, and personal responsibility.

Some questions drew a consensus of opinion, including the damaging effects of police militarization on community relations. Other questions yielded opposing viewpoints, like if America today offers opportunities for African Americans to break away from historically oppressive structures and pursue the American Dream.

“The discussion started off very productive,” said Hannah Loiacono, president of College Republicans. “Sometimes it’s easy for people to block out opinions they might not agree with, but I think that a lot of different opinions were heard and that’s what is important.”

“Mr. Williams had some very insightful things to say with regard to the way that time and the past has had an effect on what happens today,” said David (D.J.) Jordan ’17, president of Brothers. “But I have a lapse in understanding how someone like me and someone like him can come from very much the same place…. He believes that [success] is possible for anyone and everyone, when in reality, no, America is not equal opportunity.”

The lecture was sponsored by the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization, Brothers, College Republicans, College Democrats, Student Government Association, ALANA Cultural Center, the Office of the President and of the Dean of the Faculty.