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Heritage Series lecture creates ‘healing space’, discussion on border dehumanization

Several students and members of the Westminster community packed into a full room to discuss the dehumanization at the southern border in Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business Sept. 26.

Daniel Cairo, who lead the conversation, said he wanted it to be a “healing space” because the conversation concerning the border and deportation is heavy. 

Daniel Cairo, director of the Student Diversity and Inclusion Center, talks about the impact of forced migration during his lecture on political dehumanization Sept. 26. Cairo touched on several subjects, including the use of incarceration for profit and the importance of understanding the violence that goes on behind those closed doors.(Cami Mondeaux)

“I pictured people coming together to be able to talk about our reactions,” said Cairo, the director of the Student Diversity and Inclusion Center. “And try to come up with solutions as a community and think about it.” 

The lecture was part of Latinx Speaker Series, a collection of campus-wide talks focusing on the heritage and awareness of underrepresented groups.

Cairo touched on several subjects including the use of incarceration for profit and the importance of understanding the violence that goes on behind those closed doors. 

Unfortunately, people don’t realize private prisons exist, Cairo said. Private prisons are paid a certain amount by the government per prisoner per day — often depriving detainees of hygienic products or beds.

“We can’t have justice in a system that looks at people as profit,” Cairo said. “We are giving more money […] to these corporations so that they can do the minimal humane standard which is give someone a toothbrush and don’t let them sleep on the floor.” 

Along with discussing the harmful consequences at the border, Cairo also talked about how society can have challenging conversations that are productive.

He pointed to TV shows that use deportation or undocumented immigrants as entertainment, saying that while they may try to open the conversation it doesn’t handle the subject in a productive way. 

“It started messing with my own psyche,” Cairo said. “When I started to see what is happening at the border as plot points in popular TV shows. […] I no longer know if it’s genuine care for what we’re experiencing in the lives of our communities or if it’s just entertainment.”

Students write down their questions to use for discussion during a Latinx Heritage Speaker series lecture on the political dehumanization at the border Sept. 16. Daniel Cairo, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion who spoke at the lecture, said it was important to ask questions and learn how to make these difficult conversations productive. (Cami Mondeaux)

Students who attended said they appreciated the discussion because they feel it’s something taking over national conversations. 

“It’s more than an economic thing,” said Enan Whitby, a senior majoring in sociology. “It is everything. It’s an all-consuming thing and it’s taking over our political force in so many different ways.

Whitby said the lecture helped him realize where he needs to raise his voice and know what he “can do as a privileged person to help change the dehumanization that’s going on.”

Anthony Giorgio, a sophomore communication major, agreed, adding that the lecture made him question how we can fight dehumanization. 

“In order to enact systemic change it comes with changing your mindset and changing the way you show up in spaces,” Giorgio said. “That makes it feel not better and not easier, but more approachable like I can embody the beginning of systemic change. It’s not just [something] that we can’t tackle.”

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Cami Mondeaux
Cami Mondeaux is a junior communication major with a minor in sociology. Cami got her start working as a local life and government reporter for the City Journals and spent a summer interning at KSL NewsRadio. She hopes to one day report on national politics and is excited to bring her skills to The Forum for a second year on staff.

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