Women Of Color Luncheon Discusses Racism And Sexism

Isabella Chan, Assistant News Editor


As Black History Month came to an end, Central Connecticut’s Ruthe Boyea Women’s Center hosted a “Women of Color” luncheon to discuss the hardships of being a black woman and ways to resolve this social problem.

Juliana Soares and Jessica Irizarry, student event coordinators for the Women’s Center, began the event with a poem and an introduction of the keynote speaker, Dr. Charisa Levchak.

“What does it mean to be a woman of color? It is more than a skin tone and maybe you have more melanin than the person next to you,” Soares said. “But it also means we are at the bottom of the food chain, so we face a lot of walls and obstacles. But this also means we have to work harder, smarter and louder to be heard, seen or even noticed.”

Irizarry then went on to introduce Levchak, assistant professor of sociology and author of “Microaggressions and Modern Racism: Endurance and Evolution.”

During her lecture, Levchak discussed the impact racism and sexism has on the mind and recommended ways to potentially resolve such issues.

“There is hope. Social problems, like racism and sexism, are socially created [and] therefore, the solution must also be socially created,” Levchak said. “In my view, the solution requires dedication and hard work from individuals and institutions.” 

She continued to emphasize the importance of not only addressing the way oneself is oppressed by society, but also the way in which one oppresses others. Rather than becoming defensive and retaliate when racism and sexism is brought up, one should be open to discussing these matters, she said. 

“We must be willing to self-reflect, take constructive criticism and address our own shortcomings as they relate to social justice because being a good person or being progressive is not enough and in some ways, effectively meaningless if we are not checking our privilege,” Levchak said.

As a whole, many of those in attendance agreed in order for change to be made, the opportunity for discussion needs to widen.

Heidi Huguley, the co-chair on CCSU’s Committee on the Concerns of Women, explained how although starting the conversation may be difficult, it is vital to do so in order to start change.

“Women of color tend to get a reputation of, ‘They’re not gonna like this and will be too sensitive,’ but we’re all sensitive,” Huguley stated. “We all have to check ourselves. When someone says some constructive criticism, it’s an ‘ouch’ moment at first, but so what? It is for the good of the whole.”

The post-discussion began to heavily focus on ways for people to reconsider their own judgments and reactions to how racism and sexism can be handled.

“How do we shift from one oppression is all oppression?” Olga Fritho, Graduate Assistant at the Women’s Center, asked. “I feel like too often we have to decide if we are standing up for women or people of color or the LGBT community. I feel like we forgot that oftentimes if a woman is getting mistreated, that stands for all women.”

“We are all together, but in many ways, we are not as cohesive as a community as we could be,” Levchak responded. “I think that may have a lot to do with the larger U.S. society. We’re not having those discussions about unity, community and empathy or social justice values.” 

Jacqueline Cobbina-Boivin, director of the Women’s Center, ensured the attendants that the Women’s Center was a safe space for all – faculty, staff and students – to go to for assistance and support. 

For those interested, the Ruthe Boyea Women’s Center is located on the second floor of the Student Center, room 215.