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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

Saint Mary’s hosts ‘Black Excellence in Politics’ discussion

During a virtual conversation with the Saint Mary’s community Thursday evening titled “Black Excellence in Politics” 1995 alumna Dr. Felicia Brabec discussed her role in the fight for racial equity.

Brabec, currently a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, is also a practicing clinical psychologist. Despite her deep commitment to student government during her time at Saint Mary’s, Brabec said she never saw herself running for a government position as a career move.

“I am here [in this position] because the residents have entrusted me to be their voice,” she said.

Prompted by executive director for the office of Inclusion and Equity Redgina Hill, Brabec spoke of the difficulties and dangers of removing race from politics. She warned against frustrating statements such as “I don’t see color” and the way in which our words can misconstrue reality.

 Brabec also spoke about the necessity of addressing racial equity, especially in the political realm.

“[The work is] like pushing a boulder uphill all the time,” she said, quoting a friend.

During her time in the Michigan House of Representatives, Brabec has taken part in creating her county’s first racial equity policy and is currently working on a bill which, if passed, will be a step toward solving the current teacher shortage in Michigan.

Brabec offers a unique lens on policy as a result of her experience in the field of psychology, she said. This experience has given her the ability to see firsthand how government decisions directly impact the lives of citizens.

Brabec shared two more ways in which she approaches issues in policy.

“The practice of lawmaking is one of approximation. … [It’s about] taking steps in the right direction,” she said.

She also expressed her desire to look at bigger issues when it comes to change through policy. She encouraged listeners to recognize when one issue at hand is only a byproduct of a far greater one.

 Brabec offered advice to listeners on mental health. She said she believes in the necessity of laughter and seeking help when needed.

“When I want to laugh uncontrollably, I call my girlfriends from [Saint Mary’s],” she said. “Finding a therapist is like finding a comfortable pair of shoes.”

In her final comments, Brabec recalled a time when then-Vice President Joe Biden said, “Know what you are willing to lose your seat over, and fight for those things.”

Brabec said she hopes the legacy she leaves behind reflects her willingness to “lose her seat” in order to create change.

At the end of the discussion, she offered encouragement to students about the present and the future.

“What you are doing now matters, and what you will do in the future matters,” Brabec said.