Inspiring the Next Generation: Undergraduate Student Observations from Dr. Bonilla-Silva’s Talk at DCSS

Daniel Oshiro, Lindsey Smith, and Thomas Florczak are undergraduate students at American University who attended the January 27 DCSS lecture by ASA President-elect Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.

From left to right: Dr. Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, Carly Miller, Daniel Oshiro, Dr. Bonilla-Silva, Thomas Florczak, Lindsey Smith, Diego Aleman.

Sociologists have a responsibility to make words and ideas accessible to the public. The education of future thinkers remains as important as the output of new, groundbreaking research. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s lecture, “Racism in the Age of Trump,” prompted us, as undergraduate sociologists, to take a much more critical approach to the praxis of our study. During his lecture, which was presented by the DC Sociological Society (DCSS), he noted the racism we are witnessing now has always existed. Attitudes reminiscent of the 1960s manifest themselves today through overt racist language, the ban on Muslims, the wall on the southern border, and the intensification of policing. The lecture underscored how combating racism does not end with eliminating racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. Rather, sociologists must reach those who reinforce and perpetuate institutional and systematic inequalities in our society through their engagement with race, or lack thereof. Dr. Bonilla-Silva explained a sociological outlook with a bottom-up, people-focused approach.

We believe that the world requires a renewed sociology to meet obvious and growing transnational, societal problems. The world needs an accessible social science that leaves the classroom and interacts with people through informed theory and dynamic praxis. One that guides professionals around the world through justice, empathy, and understanding: an exercise that lifts people up through insight and inquiry. This vision challenges the discipline to take a hard look at the ways it engages with newcomers, in the hopes of creating a larger and more critical pool of sociological thinkers. It creates a common sociological training for everyone to understand and use.

Therefore, it should be the foremost responsibility of both students and educators to imagine and achieve this dream. Today’s educators provide the knowledge for tomorrow’s professionals who will ultimately create meaningful domestic and international change. The work to build a more accessible sociology for future generations begins now.

The lecture and reception following the event encouraged us, as undergraduate sociologists, in pursuit of this goal. We learned through conversation and a common connection with established academics and sociologists. Dr. Bonilla-Silva’s idea of sociology as a tool for everyone inspired each of us differently, and it illuminated our own respective paths. As hopeful sociologists, we are excited to join in the discipline and into this unique opportunity to learn and grow together but to also effect social change. We thank the American Sociological Association and our sociology faculty at American University for these opportunities.


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