Students taking COM 295 Interracial Dialogue course share their insights

As UNC Wilmington (UNCW) is nearing the end of the semester, students in COM 295 or Interracial Dialogue have had the opportunity to learn and discuss real-world issues facing our country. Specifically, tackling and discussing interracial relationships. 

This course, taught by Dr. Deborah Brunson (who prefers to stay out of the spotlight and declined to be interviewed), was reintroduced by the Communication Studies (COM) department this semester after the United States faced an uprise in issues of racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement amid protest of police brutality.

Sunshine Angulo, a junior at UNCW took this class for a variety of reasons. 

“With everything going on with the Black Lives Matter movement I personally felt like I had a responsibility to educate myself on these issues,” Angulo said. “For me, it was kind of like a why not like if I could [take this class] then why not. Also as a minority myself, I wanted to make sense of why my dialogue with white people is different from my dialogue with other people of color. So, it was also kind of like a personal thing and the sense of I wanted to make sense of my own reality.”

Throughout the semester Angulo and her classmates have been focusing a lot on the dialogue aspect through Zoom class conversations and online discussion boards.

“Dr. Brunson will give us a few readings to prepare for the class, and we talked about the readings, we talk about how we can apply the readings and how those applications are seen at UNCW,” Angulo said. “Most of our assignments, come from discussion board posts, which I really like because then you can read other people's opinions. You can take away a lot of different things from how other people have experienced certain events.”

She also added that she feels like she and her classmates’ have been able to take away a lot from this course.

“You really have to learn how to be an active listener,” Angulo said. “There are a lot of people who aren't speaking on behalf of the Black community but rather we're speaking for the Black community. The one thing that this class taught me is that we have to listen to the people involved and the situation. We can't expect to know everything because we don't, we don't experience those things, we don't go through those things, we don't have that first-hand experience. Because of that we're not really entitled to speak so fully and so grand on these issues.”

two women talking Mimi Thian

Angulo has also learned how to facilitate better conversations with her peers and she said that involves both people understanding that you are not always going to agree. 

“You have to recognize even with those disagreements that can still foster really productive dialogue between other people,” Angulo said. “It's important to hear the other side and it's important to be open to what they have to say. At the end of the day, no change is ever going to happen unless we can learn how to collaborate with each other.”

While the class has helped Angulo and her classmate learn to engage in more meaningful and better dialogues with Black people and other minority groups, there are few areas where she believes the class can improve and expand moving forward.

“I wouldn't say that the class has taught us to address, the systemic discrimination and racism that's present today,” Angulo said. “I would say it's definitely only ever been addressed on a smaller scale between individual interactions. So I think that's something that the class can add to their curriculum of it were to be offered in future semesters. We've been learning about the history of systemic racism and discrimination, but ways to actually combat that and ways to address that our own university I feel like isn't at the forefront of that course.”

She also feels that her classmates are being just as receptive to this information as she is. She said that all their discussions and readings have allowed for meaningful and insightful conversations, even in a smaller class like hers. Despite the smaller class size, Angulo believes her class of about 15 people is a good number to help facilitate meaningful conversations. 

She also hopes that in the future more course sections are offered so there is greater reach to UNCW students outside of the COM department.  

“This class is really important,” Angulo said. “And I don't want this class to go away when the Black Lives Matter trend goes away. And we do kind of see the hype I guess of Black Lives Matter slowly slipping through our hands. I feel like what we have now just isn't the same momentum. So I would just hate to see COM 295, to not be part of the catalog, a year, a year and a half from now just because Black Lives Matter isn’t trending. 

“Because it's not a matter of whether the movement is trending or not. We're always going to have interracial dialogue, we're always going to have tensions between different groups of people. I think it's important that as students we learn how to alleviate those tensions, especially at a university like UNCW where we are a predominately white institution.”