By Reyna Estrada
In honor of Black History Month, Roosevelt University hosted “Disparity Continues,” an event led by Illinois Appellate Court Judge Carl A. Walker. With the intention to celebrate Black History Month through the means of discussion, Judge Walker provided a review of court cases that have impacted the African-American community and engaged in a dialogue regarding modern issues of inequality.
The event took place on Monday, Feb. 11 in the Wabash building room 317, with many students and faculty in attendance.
From the very beginning, it was clear that Judge Walker intended for his presentation to be interactive as he quickly shed the microphone, and took his place closer to the audience rather than behind the podium while encouraging his audience to ask and answer questions.
Judge Walker emphasized the point that discrimination is still alive today and that it is vital to be aware of history in order to create real progress. For the sake of understanding modern civil rights issues, it is important to understand how slavery has impacted and continues to impact many aspects of society. “My comments will not be in proper context if I don’t talk about slavery first,” Judge Walker said.
Judge Walker then jumped into a quick review of the civil rights movement, mentioning important court cases such as Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. the Board of Education. He said it was necessary for people to understand the history of this court case. “This is important because this sets the stage for where we are today,” said Judge Walker as he moved the conversation into the realm of modern day inequality.
Volunteers from the audience shared statistics from recent academic studies to highlight the obvious current inequality in areas such as housing, economics and crime. One volunteer said, “Black residents are approximately one-third of Chicago’s population and two-thirds of traffic stops in 2016 and 2017,” despite being less likely of being in possession of contraband, according to an ACLU study.
Judge Walker pointed out some of his personal experience with how he noticed covert discrimination in his day to day life. “I’m a judge, but they treat me like a criminal,” Judge Walker said while discussing how often people would steer away from him, or act fearful while doing mundane tasks such as walking down the street at night.
Despite all of the evidence of discrimination and inequality highlighted throughout the program, Judge Walker tried to end the event on a positive note. He finished the program off by discussing possible solutions and ways to create change. “Hope is what keeps us going,” he reminded the audience members.
The event left the audience with thought provoking concepts and optimism for the future. Juanairis Castaneda, an audience member and first-year student at Roosevelt University, said she found herself more aware about the long lasting effects of slavery.
“From this event, I found myself more aware as to how slavery, in a way, is the root of so many of our modern problems and I think a lot of people forget that,” Castaneda said. “This leaves a responsibility to those who have become aware, that one must educate one another to eventually eradicate or at least minimize the problem.”