EDWARDSVILLE — From Paris to Ferguson, Mo., issues of race, police brutality and other tensions have been showcased throughout the world.
As part of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Department of Mass Communications’ “Diversity Amidst Adversity” series, French journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist Rokhaya Diallo showcased her documentary, “Networks of Hate,” on April 3 in the Morris University Center.
“As we talk about France, we do not normally think about race as an issue,” said Elza Ibroscheva, professor and chair of the Department of Mass Communications. “She certainly talks about the fact that in the United States, we have anti-discrimination laws because we define race and understand it as a category by which people can be acknowledged for their diversity or be marginalized.”
As a child of Senegalese parents, Diallo often found that her culture had become erased. People often asked Diallo about her place of origin, and when she replied Paris, many would be confused because of the color of her skin.
“In France, we tend to erase the entire history related to race,” Diallo said. “We pretend to be universal as a country, but it is very difficult for you to play toward your own identity because it is seen as a threat to nationality. I became a journalist to bring light to issues that were not being adequately covered in France. I started to work for television as a pundit, and I started doing documentaries to more widely and deeply explore those issues.”
Diallo drew comparisons from her research on police brutality of young Arab or black men in France, to what occurred following the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
“In France, we knew everything about the activism and uprising following the death of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and others,” she said. “In France, this happens just as often, but the media does not cover it.”
In “Networks of Hate,” Diallo talks about being attacked with hate speech on Twitter, how she pressed charges and the result of the final verdict. Along the way, Diallo also spotlights several cases of other violent verbal attacks toward politicians, feminists in the video game community, as well as hateful messages to a father whose son struggled with a horrible health condition.
“Freedom of speech is quite protected in the United States, and as we see in the documentary, France deals with hateful speech in a different way,” Diallo continued. “Both ways are not working out quite well, so perhaps a good way lies in between.”
Following the documentary, the filmmaker answered questions ranging in topics from freedom of speech, Gamergate, cultural erasure, French colonialism, the power of social media and more.
“I wanted her to talk to students interested in the line of work as journalists or documentary filmmakers,” Ibroscheva said. “Students need to know what it takes to present stories that are not from the mainstream. Diallo represents a new, vibrant, energetic and socially conscious youth that knows no borders.”
Diallo was joined by Columbia University alum, former Fulbright scholar, author and activist Anna Baltzer for another event on Tuesday, April 4, entitled “Documenting the Diverse Human Experience: Views from the Field.”
As a Jewish-American, Baltzer documented the desolate living conditions in Palestine while on assignment for the International Women’s Peace Service.
“Anna also comes from a vibrant and unique background,” Ibroscheva said. “Her family escaped the atrocities of the Holocaust. Anna’s presentation was critical in providing a unique perspective into the plight of the Palestinian people during the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
“Anna bridges the two perspectives as an Israeli-American, who has been transformed by what she’s seen on the ground and has documented,” Ibroscheva said.
During the event, Diallo and Baltzer reflected on their experiences, diversity and activism.