ASU organizations hosted a panel to raise awareness of contemporary civil rights issues facing minorities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and low-income communities Wednesday night.
A panel of four community civil rights leaders gathered at the A. E. England Building at Civic Space Park discussed a wide range of civil rights issues facing our state and country, including education, LGBT rights, immigration, health care, and issues in the criminal justice system.
Panelist La Verne Parker Diggs, executive director of Human Resources for the City of Scottsdale, said the civil rights movements were about race relations during the 1950s and 1960s but are now about human rights.
“It’s a broader civil rights that looks at dignity, justice, freedom of expression and equality (for all groups),” she said.
Although not all panelists completely agreed with Diggs’ definition of contemporary civil rights, the theme of a broader civil rights not specific to a single group carried throughout the evening.
Just like the evolution Diggs mentioned, though, the night’s discussions started with race relations and moved onto immigration.
Gabriel Escontrias Jr., assistant to the dean of natural sciences at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the major challenge with regard to illegal immigration is getting citizenship for individuals that have been in the country for ten or more years and no longer have lives outside the U.S.
The subject of education came up towards the middle of the debate and reintroduced the broader civil rights definition.
The panelists discussed how schools have fallen into what State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat, described as de facto segregation. She said since attendance is based on the surrounding neighborhoods, some schools have large low-income, minority populations.
Sinema also said because Arizona bases school funding on local property taxes from the surrounding areas, schools in poorer areas suffer more financially. She said a state property tax distributed equally among Arizona schools would be more equal.
Nicholas Walker, an advisor for the African American Men of Arizona State University, which focuses on increasing recruitment and graduation rates of black male students, said he does not believe people should rely solely on government for bettering the education system. Walker, who is a graduate student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said students should learn to teach themselves to get ahead.
Maresa Arauza, a political science sophomore, said she thought the panel discussion was very successful because it educated students on civil rights issues.
“Like Dr. Diggs said, ‘the change comes from the bottom up,’” Arauza said, “If we students are educated, we can help progress the issues and increase the help to bring change in the community. It may not be immediate; it will take some time.”
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