Last fall’s 2040-Initiative-featured speaker, Jamelle Bouie from Slate, highlighted the importance of having honest conversations about race. Creighton’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA), with a membership that includes both Black and White students, has responded to the events in Ferguson and elsewhere by initiating “Table Talks.” These conversations provide the opportunity for law students to talk to one another about their experiences with and perspectives on race.
On the evening of Wednesday, February 11th, when most students at Creighton School of Law were hunched over a book or typing away on their laptops, a buzz of lively discussion could be heard through the walls of a conference room. The topic was not contracts or property law, but one that the group felt was equally as important to discuss as law students and future lawyers: our experiences with race.
The Black Law Student Association hosted the first installment of “Table Talks.” For this first talk, each member of BLSA invited one person to join in the discussion to achieve an intimate setting to share personal experiences. BLSA encouraged its members to invite other students in the law school with differing views to facilitate a more fruitful discussion.
After grabbing a piece of pizza or a cup of coffee, the students took seats at one of the three discussion tables. Students answered icebreaker questions to build familiarity and trust. The plan was to then start small group discussions, but when a White student stated that she was a bit nervous to talk about race, the BLSA members engaged in a group-wide discussion encouraging the White students to share their experiences without hesitation. This initial conversation put the group at ease, and the bigger group broke up into three smaller groups.
Each small group was given a question to discuss. The topics ranged from “What was your first experience with racism?” to “Should we be colorblind or color-conscious?” After each question had been discussed at a table, the students moved to different tables in order to engage in conversation with other people on different topics. As a facilitator, it was difficult to find a moment to tell groups to switch because the conversation was so lively and engaging at every table! At the end of the event, every student received a sheet with recommendations for reflecting on the topics discussed at Table Talks and engaging with the community in moving forward.
The feedback from the group was all positive and students, both BLSA and non-BLSA members, expressed an eagerness for the next Table Talk. There was undoubtedly a feeling of excitement and camaraderie as the students trickled out of the conference room, still energetic with conversation. The Black Law Student Association is now planning its next Table Talk and hoping that it will be equally as successful!
Feedback from students who attended:
“I truly enjoyed the Table Talk. It was great getting to know you guys on a different level. I loved the fact that people were able to share their stories, share their experiences and even voice their concerns. I hope that everyone felt safe and comfortable tonight! That’s the most important thing! I respect all of you because openly talking about race takes courage and maturity. Can’t wait for the next one!”
“I found the inaugural Table Talk to be a very enlightening experience. It was extremely encouraging to hear stories from our colleagues about how they are seeking to have a better understanding of the many dynamics of race. It was also apparent from last night’s discussion that the next generation of Creighton Lawyers will be purposeful in applying principles of equality and inclusion in their prospective practices. Great stuff!”
Kaela McCabe, JD Class of 2016