September 22, 2006
Declaring that “we must look for ways to be more humane and hold
government accountable,” Dr. Michael Eric Dyson asked an audience
of nearly 1,000 people at St. John’s University on September 20 to
“look critically" at race and class following Hurricane
Drawing students, faculty and staff to Carnesecca Arena, Dr.
Dyson was the second speaker in the Fall 2006 Academic Lecture
Series. The author, minister and Avalon Foundation Professor in the
Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania based his lecture on
his recent book, “Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and
the Color of Disaster.”
“All kinds of people suffered from Hurricane Katrina,” said Dr.
Dyson, “but they suffered in different ways.”
“Poor people lived in the low-lying areas of New Orleans that
were hit hardest,” he continued. “Poor people didn’t have cars to
flee the city. Because of their conditions of race and class, these
poor and susceptible groups were invisible before the storm, and
were invisible afterwards.”
Race and class, Dr. Dyson said, made the hardest-hit residents
of New Orleans seem invisible to the government and many
Americans. The devastation during the Hurricane and the lack
of government response afterward underscores the need to “put
ourselves in the place of the victim.”
“Understanding the point of view of the victim helps us to see
systemic problems,” Dr. Dyson noted. This awareness can help foster
Several students participated in the event. David Alcius,
Executive Vice President of Haraya, a student group, introduced Dr.
Dyson with a description of the professor’s success as a scholar
and Baptist minister.
Bethany Housman, a graduate student in sociology, shared with
the audience her experience visiting New Orleans to help
rebuild damaged homes. “Even six months after the Hurricane,” she
said, the waters remained high enough to “seem like the levees were
breached the night before.”
Cosponsoring the lecture were the Department of Student
Life, the Office of the Provost, Student Government and the
President’s Multicultural Advisory Committee.
Each year, the Academic Lecture Series brings noted scholars and
public figures to campus to promote thoughtful inquiry among
faculty, students and staff.
We invite you to recapture the excitement of the evening by
visiting our Photo