Randall Robinson implored Quinnipiac University students and Hamden residents to think beyond the context of their own time and space.
In his Black History Month keynote address on Feb. 9, Robinson spoke of a growing apathy within the United States. “A democratic society, for its health, must be rooted in an enlightened citizenry,” Robinson said.
Robinson went on to emphasize the need for a more global view amongst Americans. He insisted that America cannot be called the greatest nation in the world until Americans begin to understand other cultures. Robinson demonstrated this fact by calling to light the death tally kept on American lives lost in the Iraq war and contrasting it with the fact that no one knows how many Iraqis have died. He alleged that the United States has “zero empathy” concerning the citizens of other nations.
In his book “The Debt – What America Owes to Blacks”, Robinson makes the case for slave reparations. He discussed the subject to some degree, asserting that African-Americans have been stripped of their cultural formation story.
“There is no worse crime you can do to a people than to steal the memory of themselves from them. That is the great crime of slavery,” Robinson said.
Expanding on this subject, Robinson called attention to the need for every American to have an equal chance at success.
“Most [African-Americans] who succeeded were put into situations where they couldn’t fail, and most who have failed were put in situations where they couldn’t succeed,” Robinson said. He also mentioned the fact that Caucasians have eleven times the net worth of African-Americans.
Robinson also touched upon the issue of jails in America. He said that the greatest problem in the correctional system is the privatization of jails and how it can become a very lucrative business. He referred to the statistic that while the United States holds one-fifth of the global population it is home to a quarter of the world’s prisons.
“It was what Americans need to hear, myself included,” Ben Page, Quinnipiac philosophy professor, said. Page added that most Americans do not know enough about their own country, let alone foreign cultures. He suggested traveling abroad and quoted Richard Nixon saying, “Travel while you’re young.”
Jamilah Reed, a Hamden resident, said that the speech “taught me [that] I need to be more critical and raise awareness on social issues.”