Dr. David Wall Rice Recap ☆
Black men. Black boys. These are the words that Dr. David Wall Rice always starts his classes and lectures with, just as he did this afternoon. Why does he start with those words? Because more often than not, society avoids them, preferring to use just “males” instead. Why is this so? Why is this important? What does this mean–both to black men and black boys themselves, but as a reflection on our society?
Today, IUME was proud to host its inaugural Visiting Faculty Fellow, Dr. David Wall Rice, a professor of psychology at Morehouse College, Thursday afternoon at Milbank Chapel at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Rice spoke for over an hour about his research at his Identity Orchestration Lab, which focuses on black boys and authentic engagement. Within these topics, he weaved in theoretical constructs with popular culture, doing so in the framework of black identity through a psychological lens. Dr. Rice’s words were poignant and thought-provoking, pushing the audience to dissect how we, or more appropriately society in general through a white dominant framework, conceptualize and simplify black males. Dr. Rice spoke both from his academic experience and personal intuition, digging deep into the complexity of identity on a population that has continually been labeled as simplistic, or as Dr. Rice said, “one-dimensional.” Dr. Rice’s work seeks to not only disprove that method of thinking, but explain, for example, how even the act of having to “prove” your identity itself is already through a deficit lens.
Yet, Dr. Rice’s dynamic, ground-breaking work is not able to be fully summarized in a few sentences (and fortunately, you can view his speech in its full form at our YouTube channel very soon). However, what should be fairly mentioned is how members in the audience pushed a back a bit at Dr. Rice’s work, challenging him and seeking more clarity from his stated positions. But as IUME Director Ernest Morrell exclaimed to the audience, this type of questioning, this type of interaction, this type of critical dialogue is exactly what is needed (because it is sorely missing)–and what IUME seeks to offer. Dr. Rice’s works complicates the simplistic, dissecting topics that have been vastly under-examined for mostly political but also practical reasons. We want to push the boundaries–as Dr. Rice does–about how society (and educators) think about children of color–and as Dr. Rice also put forth today, how children of color think about themselves. The status quo is unacceptable and we are proud to partner with scholars such as Dr. Rice whose work recognizes and uses research as a tool for action to change the status quo. The critical dialogue that occurred today from the audience and Dr. Rice was powerful–powerful in that it challenges us as researchers and activists to search for more efficient yet honest ways to change the world. And it is days like today that push us all to make steps in that positive direction.
Thank you all who attended this wonderful event–we look forward to seeing you soon!
–The IUME Team