Speaker uses race as platform for seeking truth

by Kristin Gustafson

Lee Mun Wah, filmmaker, community therapist and educator, persuaded an audience of about 120 to sit down to talk about racism at the Coffman Union theater.
He asked his audience at Thursday’s event, “Breaking Barriers: A conversation on Race and Racism,” to tell each other the truth.
“We just need to begin the dialogue,” Mun Wah said.
“It was a little difficult to meet someone without knowing them ahead of time,” said Marguerita Carlin, a sophomore studying Asian-American studies, Korean and Spanish.
Mun Wah encouraged difficulty and discomfort: “I think of myself more like a bridge to help them talk.”
Once on stage, Mun Wah persuaded each audience member to pair up with a person of a different race and answer the question: “What is your name and your ethnicity?”
He then showed his film, “The Color of Fear,” where eight men — black, white, Asian-American and Hispanic — sit together and answer the same question over a three-day period. The film shows the men as they talk, scream and cry together.
“It was really courageous for these eight men to tell the truth,” said Anh Lam, a second-year electrical engineering major. “It’s telling me, ‘Pay more attention to those things.'”
Mun Wah’s film shows each man as they unravel the pain and scars of racism and their fear of each other. Their descriptions are spontaneous and unscripted.
Out of the character’s confrontations emerges a deeper sense of understanding and hope.
Julius Erolin, adviser to the Asian American Student Cultural Center, the event’s sponsor, said the film is very emotional.
“Every time I’ve seen it, it just hits me,” said Erolin, who has seen the film at least six times.
Mun Wah said he wanted to show men of color as articulate, emotional and sensuous. “I wanted to show that men are capable of a lot of emotions.”
The Asian American Student Cultural Center-sponsored event is a part of a series of education and community-building events culminating in the center’s spring conference. “We wanted to make our programming more diverse,” said Franco Cusipag, the program’s treasurer.