Forum on Democracy

On Thursday, February 23 I attended the event Forum on Democracy hosted in the Meacham Auditorium of the Oklahoma Memorial Union. I missed the presentations for Panel 1; however, I was present for the question and answer period of Panel 1, as well as the presentations of two speakers on Panel 2. The second presentation I listened to entitled “Identities Under Surveillance” was given by Mirelsi Velasquez, a graduate student at OU.

She began by displaying images of Japanese children accompanied by letters written by Japanese-American elementary school students who were forced into internment camps in California in 1942. She also discussed the issue of Mexican repatriation in the 1930s. Her intent was to show the way that minority communities in the United States have historically lived in fear as a way to show that we cannot hope to live democratically while we continue to oppress religious and ethnic minorities. These examples of past oppression were paralleled by examples of fear imposed on minorities happening today such as legal residents of the US being detained at airports, Mexican-American families ripped apart by deportation, and anti-Muslim rhetoric permeating the political atmosphere.

This lecture relates to a course i’m taking called US-Arab cultural encounters because the speaker discussed cultural encounters between the United States and minority/immigrant communities and the oppressive nature of these interactions. While the speaker did not explicitly discuss US interactions with Arab countries, she shed light on the hypocrisy of US democracy promotion while it simultaneously engages in the systematic oppression of religious and ethnic minority communities.

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