By: Thomas Moore, Campus Editor
Thursday, Feb. 21, in honor of Black History Month, Furman University hosted a CLP-An Evening with Monica Bell: Learning about Race as a Structure, Not Just An Identity.
A Furman graduate, Dr. Bell is now a professor at Yale Law School. She decided to return to Furman to share some of her experiences though he expressed bewilderment at “being the topic of a CLP” as opposed to one of the audience members.
Her talk centered around her experiences at Furman: both in the ways Furman prepared her for the real world, and areas where it could use some improvement. She began with a question: “race is a social construct. What do you think this means?” She then took questions from the audience, she wanted their input.
At Furman, Dr. Bell was an exemplary student. Dr. Guth, professor of politics and international affairs, described her as “one of my favorite students.” She discussed how she was an active member of FUSAB and s a freshman, she was also a member of AFS (what is now SGA). However, Furman fell into the trap of “homophilia”-love of the same, and Dr. Bell expressed discontent at the things that held her back from reaching her potential at Furman. She was not a member of Greek life nor was she white.
Along the theme of college life, she discussed how going to Yale was one of the hardest transitions of her life. Initially, Dr. Bell was excited, as “expected it would be very progressive, and there would be no racism or elitism there.” Unfortunately, she was wrong. There was an elite culture there, and she experienced difficulty trying to escape her previous experiences in academia at both institutions.
In relation to her experiences, Dr. Bell offered ways that people can help end racism and come together. On her own part, Dr. Bell “tries to make as few assumptions about people as possible.” She thinks it is wrong to judge someone’s total personality based on first appearances, or their political party. She contends that you should not come in on the defensive and make general assumptions about people simply because they are conservative or traditional. “Don’t use political affiliations as an excuse to not engage in dialogue,” she says.
When ones student asked for general advice on life, Dr. Bell responded, “I typically don’t like giving general advice, because it always feels disingenuous.” She tried her best though, advising students to spend their time at Furman “not thinking necessarily about what to do now in order to have a certain job later, but educating yourself in all areas of life first, and asking yourself, ‘why do I hold this particular belief? Why am I like this?’”