Åbo Akademi Students Discuss ”Pandemic of Color”

In this interview with our editor-in-chief Leonardo Custódio, students of the Master’s Programme in Social Exclusion (Åbo Akademi, Turku) talk about the virtual, one-day seminar “Pandemic of color: Race, racialization, and health”, which they organize on May 21st, 2021.

RASTER.FI: What is the event “Pandemic of color: Race, racialization, and health”?
The event Pandemic of color: Race, racialization, and health is a seminar organized by students of the Master’s degree course Race, Racism, and Antiracism in the Master’s program in Social Exclusion at Åbo Akademi University. The one-day event happens virtually on Zoom on the 21st of May. The seminar will have three keynote presentations by experts in the field, research presented by students of the course. The seminar will also feature the panel discussion “Our world will never be the same again” with politicians, activists and representatives from Åbo Akademi University. The topics include racial health disparities, racism as a fundamental cause of adverse health outcomes, racism related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more.

RASTER.FI: Why “Pandemic of color”?
Our title “Pandemic of color” is relevant to the realities of discrimination highlighted due to COVID-19, and the health disparities that hinder the lives of people of color (POC) which have existed prior to the virus. However, our title extends beyond healthcare to center racism as a true pandemic that disrupts our societies.

RASTER.FI: What are the objectives of the event?
The event’s goal is to raise awareness of racial disparities and create a discussion around the topic of racism. We want to discuss how the media covers the current situation around COVID-19 and its effects on racism. Organizing a one-day seminar is an excellent opportunity for us, students, to practice what we have learned from our studies. Our aim is to have an event where the participants learn from experts and have an opportunity to share their own thoughts and questions related to the seminar topics. We believe that sharing our own research as well as learning from experts is a great combination for developing our knowledge in this field.

RASTER.FI: What theories inform the way in which the event defines race, racialization and their relationship to POC health?
The course “Race, Racism, and Antiracism” concentrates on theories of race and racialization from antiracist activist and historian Ibram X Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist (2019). Kendi argues that there are no race-neutral policies; therefore, it is essential to see the effects of a pandemic on reproducing racism/antiracism through health policies/everyday life practices in the era of the pandemic. While we do not specifically analyze POC health disparities, we hope to learn new theories proposed by our keynote speakers and panelist participants.

RASTER.FI: Can you tell us a little bit about the team of students organizing the event?
Social exclusion is a complex societal process that affects political and legal involvement and agency. In our program, we analyze underlying societal conditions that reinforce social exclusion in addition to analyzing theories that advocate for consciousness and inclusion. Our class “Race, Racism, and Anti-racism” consist of Social Exclusion MA students, international students, exchange students, and students outside of Abo Akademi. Of this group, we represent a range of academic fields and interests.

RASTER.FI: What does organizing this kind of event mean to the organizers?
This seminar is a great opportunity for us, as graduate students of the ”Race, Racism, and Antiracism” course, to gain practical experience on these critical matters beyond the classroom. Thanks to expert contributions from academics, activists, and professionals on this topical issue, we can bring the conversation to the real world. Throughout this process, we have been able to work together to raise awareness on issues of racism as well as to show solidarity in these dire times to those who continue to experience racism during the pandemic. The seminar is held with the assistance of our professor Dr. Aminkeng Atabong Alemanji.

RASTER.FI: Who are the guests in the event? Why did you choose to invite them?
Our keynote speakers are Tuuli Kurki, Lovette Jallow and Gavan Titley. Tuuli Kurki is a researcher on racism and mental health from the University of Helsinki. Lovette Jallow is a social activist from Sweden who is an expert on race, colorism, and autism. Gavan Titley is a researcher on racism and a media researcher. Our confirmed panelists are Paco Diop and Yasmin Ibrahim. We believe that we can learn from their expertise on issues of racism and health.

RASTER.FI: Who can participate in the seminar?
We welcome students, academics, activists, and everyone who understands a conversation in English and is interested to learn more about racism and health to join us. The event is entirely online via zoom. You can find the link to register here: http://bit.ly/pandemicofcolor. Deadline to register is the 20th of May. To learn more and be updated about our event, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.