Culture TEDTalks

5 powerful talks about the quest for equality in the United States

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Freeman Hrabowski was a 9th grader in Birmingham, Alabama, when he heard a dynamic, impassioned speaker at church — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, King was organizing a march for children, and Hrabowski begged his parents to let him be a part of it.

Freeman Hrabowski: 4 pillars of college success in scienceFreeman Hrabowski: 4 pillars of college success in scienceHrabowski won their blessing to march in the Children’s Crusade, a pivotal moment in the American Civil Rights Movement in 1963. He was taken to jail for participating, even though he was just 12-years-old. In today’s talk, Hrabowski shares the words that King said to him and the others inside the jailhouse: “What you children do this day will have an impact on children who have not been born.”

Today, Hrabowski is the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), a college that serves students of all backgrounds and that is known for supporting students of color in two areas of study where they are severely underrepresented — science and engineering. The school currently leads the country in graduating African-Americans who go on complete Ph.Ds and MD/Ph.Ds in these fields.

In today’s talk, Hrabowski notes that only 20% of Black and Latino students who start out as pre-med or pre-engineering stick with these demanding majors. That said, the numbers are low in other groups, too — only 32% of white students and 42% of Asian-American students who start rigorous science and engineering majors complete them. “It’s not just minorities who don’t do well in science and engineering,” says Hrabowski. “Students in general are not making it.”

To hear Hrabowski’s four pillars for setting students up to succeed in science and engineering, watch this talk. As Hrabowski says, these guidelines were designed at UMBC to “help minorities students,” but they can also “help students in general.”

It’s been 50 years since Hrabowski went to jail for marching for equality. Much has changed since then and, yet, so any inequalities persist in the United States. Here, four more talks about heartbreaking imbalances still in play today.

Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injusticeBryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injusticeBryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice
In the eyes of the American judicial system, we are not one and the same, says public-interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson. A third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives – a statistic that should give us all pause. In this powerful talk from TED2012, Stevenson gives a rousing critique of a judicial system that “treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.”
iO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gayiO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gayiO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gay
Photographer iO Tillett Wright has been in love with men, and she’s been in love with women. Though marriage was far from her mind in 2008, when California’s Proposition 8 sparked a national debate over gay marriage, the conversation still struck her like a punch. She embarked on a fascinating photo project to document the LGBTQ spectrum and the many, many different shades that exist along it.
Aaron Huey: America's native prisoners of warAaron Huey: America's native prisoners of warAaron Huey: America’s native prisoners of war
Photographer Aaron Huey headed to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to record images of people living in poverty. There, a shocking 90% of residents live below the poverty line and life expectancy for men is just 47 years. As Huey says in his powerful TEDx Talk, the photo project soon became much more — an effort to understand the history of the native Lakota people, “a time-line of treaties made, treaties broken.”
Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaimLawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaimLarry Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim
In this bold talk from TED2013, legal activist Larry Lessig addresses a central corruption at the heart of our electoral system – that in order to do well in a general election, a politician must first win the blessing of funders. And yet,  this second group represents a scant 150,000 people out of 311 million. While, yes, politicians are responsible to the people, they’re also responsible to their funders—giving this small group far too much influence.

Comments (6)

  • commented on Apr 11 2013

    Reblogged this on "Fresh Oil" and commented:
    The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative, a partnership of UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization, and Merck, a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well, today announced that it would award scholarships and fellowships to 37 African American students of biological science and engineering. In addition to building a pipeline of African American college students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative (UMSI) works to leverage the UNCF-Merck partnership and the talent of UNCF Merck Fellows to help support the pipeline of minority students by engaging and attracting them to STEM subjects as early as elementary school.

    UMSI aims to increase the number of African American undergraduates studying in STEM disciplines. American undergraduate students tend to select natural science and engineering (NS&E) disciplines as their primary field of study at considerably lower rates than their counterparts in other countries, according to the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2012. According to the most recent data, only 16 percent of U.S. undergraduates graduate with an NS&E degree, compared to 24 percent of undergraduates in the European Union, 44 percent in China, and 37 percent in South Korea.

    The same trend is reflected among students studying STEM as graduate students and postdoctoral scientists. 33 percent of all U.S. STEM doctoral students in U.S. universities, and 43 percent of the U.S.’s postdoctoral researchers in science, engineering, and health are foreign students.

  • commented on Apr 9 2013

    We are so fortunate to have Dr. Hrabowski as our President.

  • Pingback: It’s Not Just School, It’s Life: President Hrabowski’s TED Talk on Student Success | BreakingGround

  • Boris Furlan commented on Apr 9 2013

    Reblogged this on Projet Freire and commented:
    Sur l’équité

  • commented on Apr 8 2013

    Reblogged this on Oxtapus *beta.

  • commented on Apr 8 2013

    Reblogged this on The Girl in HR's Blog.