Colorado Mountain College Common Reader program hosts Hinton for virtual lectures about his memoir, inequality in America
Anthony Ray Hinton uses his 30-year false conviction to teach, open conversation
White fragility is a term used to describe the feeling of discomfort that accompanies learning about the lack of privilege available to people of color, persistent examples of inequality that still exist in today’s world. Becky Musselman said as a white woman she thinks it’s important to not just have these conversations, but approach them from a place of compassion and as someone who is ready to listen.
“It’s okay to say to people, ‘Wow I can’t imagine how you feel because given my background it is so different,’” said Musselman, an adjunct political science professor at Colorado Mountain College. “‘And please enlighten me, and please call me out when I make a misstep because I may not be intentionally doing it,’ but there’s so many inherent biases.”
The Common Reader program at CMC is essentially a community book club for students, faculty and locals who are interested in participating. This year’s selected book is “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hinton and chronicles the 30 years he spent in prison after he was falsely convicted. In a news release from CMC, it said in the virtual lectures Hinton will give over Zoom, he will connect his experience with the events of the past year, like isolation in quarantine or the insurrection at the Capitol.
“Just six days after the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol in early January, Hinton shared his take on how these issues are reflected in today’s headlines. ‘People are raised around lies and they believe those lies,’ he said. ‘They are programmed to hate. Those guys at the Capitol, they were crying out for help. I see guys like that and I feel really sorry that they have been misled. In hating, you’re allowing someone to dictate your joy,’” the release states.
Taylor Lonask, a second-year student at CMC studying elementary education and American Sign Language, is in Musselman’s class this semester, as well as two others where they’re discussing Hinton’s book. Lonask said she is enjoying the ability to bring up points discussed in one class about the book with classmates she meets with for other courses as well.
“It’s really neat to kind of see the government inside of (the book) and kind of…see how a trial works and overturning convictions can happen and how a lot of people are wrongfully convicted…I kind of always assumed innocent until proven guilty but in this story it’s guilty until way, way, way beyond proved innocent,” Lonask said.
The CMC news release also mentioned that in addition to Hinton’s writing, he works as a speaker and community educator to facilitate conversations about race and discrimintation.
“Before the virus, I visited universities and I’d sit down and invite all types of people to open conversations,’ Hinton said in the release ‘Whether Black, White, Hispanic, let’s learn from each other before we destroy each other. We need to learn why we think and act like we do.”
Musselman said within her class’ discussions she tries to emphasize that it is one thing to acknowledge one’s bias and privilege, but it takes extra steps to stand up for what’s right when you see acts of injustice playing out around you.
“It’s taking that activist step of stopping racism and not just turning a blind eye and saying ‘oh, I’m not racist,’ but you’re very complicit in behaviors that are established,” Musselman said.
If you go…
Hinton’s lectures are at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 and 25 over Zoom. It is free to attend but advance registration is required in order to attend. To register or learn more about Hinton and his book, visit CMC’s Common Reader page here.
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