Guest Lecturer Sheds Light on South Africa and Racial Relations

By: Mollie Lastovica

Students in Professor Alvin Larke, Jr., Ph.D.’s Cultural Pluralism in Agriculture course, ALED 422, were greeted on Thursday by guest lecturer Donna Bryant, former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press.

Bryant was raised in California and attended Northwestern University to complete both a bachelor’s and master’s in journalism. She worked as a foreign correspondent for 19 years, seven of which she spent in South Africa. She currently resides in Colorado and works as a freelance journalist and writer.

Bryant reflected on her time in South Africa and the attitudes toward education in the country both pre and post-apartheid.

“It was against the law to educate many South Africans,” Bryant said. “People went to jail for simply trying to educate their own children.”

She discussed the prime of the renowned Nelson Mandela and the metamorphosis education including struggles and triumphs following integration.

“South Africans have a lot of faith in education,” Bryant said. “Integration has been very difficult. There have been riots and animosity on campuses. But the ethos of South Africa remains in truth and reconciliation.”

During her time in the country, Bryant worked with the Free State University. It was that work that led her to Texas A&M. After a number of Free State University students were sent to Texas A&M to study last year, she was intrigued by their opinion about race relations in the United States and is now working on a book about racial relations.

“The students were overwhelmed by how open people were about race here,” Bryant said. “I am coming now to try and get a sense of what they saw.”

Bryant fielded a number of student questions at the end of her presentation that focused on historical, political and perception issues of South Africa. She touched on the economy, common stereotypes and the legend of Mandela, noting that Americans don’t often understand the inward focus of South Africans due to all that has taken place in their country.

For Hollye Simpson, a senior agricultural communications and journalism major, the lecture was refreshing and offered a different perspective.

“Hearing an outside perspective on certain topics makes it more realistic and we can get a better understanding of what is happening,” Simpson said.

In regard to stereotypes and individual differences, the focus of Larke’s class, Bryant shed her thoughts on how to minimize the scrutiny of such.

“The first step is to admit you have a problem,” Bryant said. “We all have prejudices. If we can interrogate our own prejudices than maybe we can find compassion.”

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