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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Alumna aims to stop “social justice flat-earthers”

Start by making every environment you’re in the environment you want to see. That is Western alumna Ijeoma Oluo’s advice on creating change.

Oluo spoke on campus Feb. 23 about race, gender, social change and navigating politics.

Ijeoma Oluo speaks in Communications Facility 120 on February 23 // photo by Melissa McCarthy

Oluo is the editor-at-large of The Establishment, a media outlet run and funded by women. She has written pieces on race and social justice for news sources including The Washington Post and TIME. Oluo was also named one of Seattle’s most influential people by Seattle Magazine.

The Western alumna spoke about people who don’t believe in marriage or racial equality.

“You are a flat-earther of social justice,” Oluo said of these people. “And my goal is not to convince you otherwise, my goal is to make you ineffective.”

Oluo graduated from Western in 2007 with a political science degree.

Her lecture focused on themes of identity politics and ongoing social dilemmas facing minorities.

“Identity politics is basically saying there is more than just one identity,” Oluo said.

Vicki Hsueh, director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, said she had Oluo as a student during her time at Western.

“She was a great student. [She] changed the dynamic in the class,” Hsueh said.

Hsueh wanted to invite Oluo to campus to speak not only because she was a former student and a political science major, but also because Oluo is amazing, she said.

“I couldn’t believe that we had not brought her to campus to speak [already].” 
Vicki Hsueh, director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program

Junior Roshaé Lowe attended the event.

Lowe said she had heard the lecture topics before, but they were more powerful coming from Oluo.

“It was great to have someone of color that’s a woman be able to say these things. So often we hear from men that are white,’” Lowe said. “It’s nice to hear from someone who has the experience, the background about what she’s saying.”  

Junior Brandon Burns said he reflected on Oluo’s call to action in the immediate environment.

“I think she was inspiring in terms of speaking out in your community and not being surprised of things happening at the national level if you’re not trying to affect things at the local level,” Burns said.

Oluo said she could relate to the feeling of dread many young people are experiencing regarding the political atmosphere today. She said she felt the same way after George W. Bush was re-elected.

Oluo said she remembers feeling as if there was no coming back from the election, and asking what it said about the nation and its people.

“It turns out it says what it has always said, which is that we live in a patriarchal white supremacy,” Oluo said.

What the United States faces now is not unique or surprising, Oluo said. The current political climate is only unprecedented in its boldness, but not in its scope, terror or damage.

“Do not be mistaken. The worst that you are fearing has already happened to many people in this country.”

 

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