Updated: Oct 7, 2022
The OWU SOAN Department welcomed Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator and co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign to campus on September 20.
The event was held on the third floor of Merrick Hall, and was part of the Butler A. Jones Lectureship on Race and Society, which has occurred at OWU since 1995. The series is named after OWU professor Butler A. Jones, who taught within the Sociology Department for 17 years.
The lecture was entitled “The Hook-Up: How Race and Class are Soulmates for Life,” and included lessons about how the two identifiers are inextricably linked, as well as why fights for worker rights and racial equality must be tied to one another in order to achieve meaningful progress.
She touched on how economic freedom is a prerequisite to achieving racial equality, and tackling other forms of prejudice. “You cannot be truly free unless you are economically free”, she said.
Such freedom includes being released from the financial burden of paying for housing and healthcare. She explained that the government should provide for such basic rights, so that its people are able to live their lives, and exercise their freedoms in the way that they want.
In the fight for economic justice, Turner stressed the need for all racial groups to work together, as true change can only be achieved through collective action.
She finds this to be especially true given that a widespread attitude in the United States is that those struggling financially are in that situation due to their own actions.
Due to this, the rhetoric surrounding working class people will often imply that they deserve to struggle, or that they could alleviate their condition by working harder. “We worship at the feet of the wealthy while telling poor people to ‘get by as they can,’” Turner said. In order to combat such a culture, as many people as possible must be included in the movement.
While solidarity is incredibly important to building the movement, Turner finds it key to center those experiencing the forms of prejudice itself. “True changes that touch the masses only come through the minds and hearts of the oppressed,” she explained. This is also why the work must be done by everyday people, rather than political elites or others in privileged positions of power.
During the question and answer portion of the evening, she had an open dialogue with students about her upbringing, her educational and professional background, and her own personal experiences of racism.
Turner ended her lecture with a call to action to fight for racial and economic justice. “That is the way it has always been, but it is not how it has to be going forward.” She encouraged OWU students to continue the fight for justice, even if it feels hopeless at times.