UCSF students represent a wide diversity of cultures and backgrounds, and they can share their unique experiences in a safe space during the event series, Race Talks.

Race Talks: A “Brave Space” for Students

School of Medicine

Given UCSF’s rich history of activism, it’s no wonder that the students who choose to enroll at the university are strong proponents of social justice.

We saw this passion through the White Coats for Black Lives movement and we watch the commitment to change continue to motivate discussion through Race Talks, described by the founders as “an interprofessional space for UCSF students to meet regularly and discuss topics including race, justice, and current events.”

As an example, the last discussion was hosted in partnership with the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and focused on immigration.

“Our hope was that it would be an open space for thoughts and emotions. And that it would serve as both a place for people already engaged in activism to find allies and a place for people who don’t know anything,” said Hannah Obasi, one of the founders of Race Talks. “My experience in undergrad is where I learned about racism, the justice system, and social issues; through others’ experience told at the forum there.”

Race Talks is a product of #whitecoats4blacklives. At the first Town Hall held after the die-in last year, several different working groups were formed to address curriculum reform, faculty diversity, support for underrepresented students, and many other initiatives.

The founders of Race Talks, second-year medical students Ilana Garcia-Grossman, Obasi, and Olivia Park, were all members of the Sustainable Actions working group when Obasi brought up the idea of creating a forum for social issues, similar to one she had attended at Stanford as an undergraduate student.

“Race and social justice issues permeate patient care and the individual experience of health, but we don’t typically engage with these issues in our curriculum,” said Park when asked why they thought Race Talks was an important recurring event to hold on campus.

Garcia-Grossman said they felt there was a real need for spaces on campus where students could reflect on current events and how those fit into the context of our current role as students and future role as health care providers.

“We felt it was critical for these spaces to be interprofessional and to be student led,” Garcia-Grossman stated in an email.

Park said the event attracted a good number of attendees.

“But we wish the leadership were more interdisciplinary,” she said. “We are still working on engaging more student coordinators and hope to eventually have representation from each school.”

As well as being student-led, the forum is currently only attended by students. Park and Obasi are mixed about whether faculty should be included in the forum.

“On one hand,” said Park, “It is very encouraging to see faculty members interested in attending Race Talks and wanting to be involved. But on the other, one of our priorities is creating a space for students by students.”

The founders believe there is value in having the type of protected space they’re offering in order to learn and process from and with one another.

Race Talks used to be held in the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) but has become so well-attended that it will be moved to a larger venue.

“The popularity of the event is proof that the need is there,” said Tina Novero, the Manager of Events and Communications within the Office of Diversity and Outreach, who has been integral behind-the-scenes. “It’s important for spreading the diversity of perspectives across campus, in community building, and to heal from personal trauma.”

Park said the event resonates well beyond its confines within the safe space. The community building aspect of the series is also taking shape.

“It’s been meaningful to be able to recognize faces all around campus,” said Park. “Even just sharing a single smile as we go about our hectic days makes a huge difference.”

The next talk will take place Wednesday, November 18 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Cole Hall. The discussion topic will be the recent events at University of Missouri.

Attend the discussion forum and if you feel yourself wanting to get more involved, and don’t hesitate to approach any of the coordinators afterwards.