Loretta Ross speaks to economic origins of white supremacy, academic racism
Sowon Yoon '21
The Smith community had a chance to hear Loretta Ross speak last Monday. Loretta Ross, an African-American activist most known for her actions for female reproductive rights, spoke for the second session of a four-week program, planned by the Study of Women and Gender department.
The program, scheduled on Mondays, focuses on the issue of white supremacy in U.S. society, especially apparent after the rampant displays of white supremacist violence after the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
At last Monday’s talk, Ross spoke about the historical origins of white supremacy, focusing on the impact that conservative economic theories have had on the issue. Speaking with powerful conviction, coupled with witty remarks that made the audience roar with laughter, Ross was both informative and inspirational in her two-hour speech.
Ross began by reviewing what she had discussed the week prior. Then, she went on to talk about the historical and economic origins of white supremacy. In doing so, she showed a unique perspective; she claimed that white people artificially creating divides for economic means began with anti-Semitism and that all kinds of oppression is ultimately linked to white, male supremacy.
Yet Ross, as an activist focused on solving present issues, showed her true acumen when she began to interact with Smith college communities in discussing what she called “academic racism.” Inevitably, the issue was linked to the recent controversy in the campus. Ross wanted to hear the community’s take, while providing some possible solutions with insights.
In general, Ross seemed to be encouraging reform on the administrative level, rather than led by students. With some lessons she seemed to be getting from the many ’60s student-led social revolutions, she claimed that administrative reform led by progressive donors was bound to be more effective than students questioning and trying to change the direction of the college.
Ross repeatedly called for students to be more focused on getting educated, and then using their education to try to change the world for the better. While Ross’s intention, surely, was not to disempower the students, many certainly felt so, and lively discussion was exchanged.
Ross’s wisdom showed not in the infallibility of her opinions, but in her ability to discuss and debate such issues with variety of audiences.
*This article has been edited for the website version