“Every generation rediscovers something that is perennial,” Baumgartner said.
The panelists, whose fields ranged from history to psychology, touched on several underlying factors — such as social, political and economic inequalities — that contributed to unrest in Ferguson.
Using the situation in Ferguson as a starting point, the panel discussed the long history of race relations in the U.S. and the realities that continue to exist today.
The panelists were given the floor to present the various factors contributing to racial violence across the country.
Blair Kelley, a history professor at N.C. State University, said the events in Ferguson were reminiscent of other instances of racial tension in American history, such as the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“I was intrigued by this mobilization — this beginning of what could be a movement for social change,” Kelley said.
The question of police responses in communities made up predominantly of racial minorities led to the discussion of broader issues, including American identity.
“The reality in this country is a reality that we are deeply invested collectively in ignoring; (it) is that race has always been and continues to be the great American dilemma,” Shaw said.
UNC seniors Caitlin Biddell and Michelle Goto attended the event after hearing about it from the news listserv for the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Biddell, a biology major from Raleigh, said she liked hearing a variety of perspectives represented on the panel.
“A reason I wanted to come was to be prepared to have conversations (about race) and to not be ignorant, which is why I appreciated the diversity of specializations on the panel,” Biddell said.
“Race is a big issue and will always be unless we continue to have these conversations,” Goto said.