START hosts Dr. El-Kati for discussion about race

Grace Palmer, Staff Writer

The media center at South played host to a community discussion about race this past Thursday, the eighth. The event was put together by Students Together as Allies for Racial Trust (START), a student group at South.

The evening began with a potluck dinner, and coffee from Brotherhood Brew, before the guest speaker arrived. It was well attended, with around fifty members of the community in the audience. The discussion was part of an ongoing series, called Discussions That Encounter, which occur across the Twin Cities twice each month. These events focus on confronting and openly talking about talking about race-related issues in our community and society at large, through discussions and guest speakers.

The speaker at South was Dr. Mahmoud El-Kati, a local scholar currently lecturing at Augsburg College. The man who introduced him said El-Kati is, “characterized as a professional scholar, but for me he is a person of thought, very deep thought.”

“This country is not now, never has been, and never will be white. This has always been a multiracial country, there have always been multi-colored people,” said El-Kati.

Dr. El-Kati’s speech focused on looking at United States history from a new perspective, rather than the usual one, which he considers to be harmfully Euro-centric. To this end, he said, “American history is largely a myth. A myth is not a lie.” He talked about commonly held stories of events, or perceptions of historic figures. He pointed out that Thomas Jefferson wrote the constitution, which is held up as a standard of equality, but also took the lives of six hundred black people.. He encouraged his audience to think about commonly held conventions, saying “Race is a myth. Racism is not a myth.”

Throughout his speech he elaborated, saying that differences between races and the way history is often presented are myths, but racism is a mindset that has grown out of this myth. Dr. El-Kati ended the main portion of his speech with, “We, as a country, have got to grow up.”

This discussion is just one example of the ways in which START is becoming more active. They recently spoke at the YWCA’s Time to Talk About Race conference, and recently got students involved in “mix it up day” during lunch.