Panel Discussion Kicks Off Hispanic Heritage Month Activities

Picture courtesy of Center for Student Diversity
Picture courtesy of Mount St. Mary’s Center for Student Diversity

The Center for Student Diversity commenced Hispanic Heritage Month Tuesday evening, Sept. 15, with a presentation and panel by Dr. Tehama Lopez Bunyasi.  The panel was on the topics of Language, Colorism, and Identity in the Hispanic/Latino community.

Dr. Bunyasi’s lecture focused on issues such as how the broad terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” used by the US Census and other various questionnaires and surveys causes confusion as to how people identify themselves.

Dr. Bunyasi argues that Hispanics/Latinos are both racial and ethnic groups, instead of one or the other as the census implies, because she feels that “race is necessarily about power.” By this she means that because there are differences in the treatment of races, Hispanics/Latino’s qualify as a separate race as they are ethnically.

In addition to detailing many statistics describing the differences between Hispanics/Latinos and other races socially, economically and educationally. Dr. Bunyasi also voiced personal anecdotes of how she as a 4th generation Mexican American was conflicted over her racial identity when she was young.

Following the lecture, a panel of Hispanics/Latinos from the Mount answered questions from Dr. Bunyasi and the audience with regards to their own personal experiences of either growing up in or moving to the United States with their ethnic backgrounds. The panelists included faculty members Dr. Alejandro Cañadas and Dr. Diana Rodriguez-Lozano, and students Lina Guerrero and Josh Martinez.

While most of the panel said that they had experienced some form of prejudice, the older panelists said that age makes a difference. The student panelists spoke of how their experiences occurred while they were in school amongst their peers, but the faculty panelists noted that as they grew older the prejudices noticeably lessened.

All agreed that being Hispanic/Latino was a lot more than just being a distinct race, but a having unique set of culture and customs that are shared by millions of people in the United States, and even more around the world, that should be celebrated.

Dr. Bunyasi is an Assistant Professor at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, who specializes in racial and ethnic conflicts in the United States.

Ms. Chianti Blackmon, Director of the Center for Student Diversity, included the following description of Hispanic Heritage month in an email advertising last week’s event: Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th-October 15th), whose roots go back to 1968, begins each year on September 15, the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. [The Center for Student Diversity] recognize[s] the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate their heritage and culture.

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