Penn State

Soledad O’Brien to bring racial discussion to Penn State

Soledad O’Brien wants to talk about race.

The Peabody Award-winning journalist brings her “Black in America” discussion to a Penn State audience at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Eisenhower Auditorium.

It is a conversation she is thinks is important in light of racial issues in recent months, including the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., by the gun of police officer Darren Wilson, igniting a national firestorm.

“I think this has been coming for a long time. It is an important and relevant issue in black communities,” she said in an interview with the Centre Daily Times. “Policing has changed the discussion.”

In December, that fiery conversation blazed at Penn State when student protests were organized over the course of a week, with the rallying cry of “Black lives matter.” President Eric Barron became embroiled in controversy when he was photographed raising his hands with protesting students in the “don’t shoot” gesture that became part of the Ferguson debate.

“It’s not like they are saying ‘so-and-so’s lives don’t matter,” O’Brien said.

“It’s not ‘white lives don’t matter.’ We have to examine why there is this hostility.”

What she doesn’t want is a passive audience that accepts what she has to say on the matter without engaging. That is why she is coming to college campuses like University Park.

“I don’t want to spoon-feed my perspective,” she said.

That perspective touches on lots of different experiences. O’Brien is a Harvard-educated woman, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In her career, she has worked for NBC and CNN, including on the sweeping looks at race through the documentaries “Black in America” and “Latino in America.”

Today she is exploring her own projects with her own company, Starfish Media Group, with the stated goal of taking “a challenging look at often divisive issues of race, class, wealth, opportunity, poverty and personal stories.”

“As a reporter, a lot of what I would like to do is have the uncomfortable conversations,” she said.