By Kelly Stephens
The Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion held its fourth workshop for the semester on Nov. 5 in the Education Building Room 212.
As part of the Diversity Education Series, the workshop, titled “Testing Your Diversity Skills,” gave audience members the chance to assess and improve their skills in diversity.
Divided into six categories were aspects of diversity, with each focusing on a specific skill set that ranged from cultural self-awareness to awareness of stereotypes that exist within society.
Robin Parker and Pamela Smith Chambers, the executive director and training director of the Beyond Diversity Resource Center, respectively, initiated the discussion with a common thought that many people have about actively participating in diversity, as well as what it means to be inclusive of people who are different from one another.
“The feeling is that if you are just nice enough, if you just have the right intention, if you’re kind, if you love, (then) that’s all you really have to do,” Parker said. “All of that is wonderful, but it is never enough, unfortunately.”
Parker continutinued by saying that people live in different worlds and experiences around privilege have to do with race. According to Parker, in order to make a difference, a larger effort will need to be made by others in order to understand one another rather than simply being nice.
“We have to develop a long term and life learned skills to negotiate, what I think frankly, can be a minefield around race and other issues of difference,” Parker said.
Chambers then led the audience in a six-part test on diversity skills, with each part assessing a particular skill of the participants. After allowing audience members to complete the test, Chambers left them with some anecdotes on diversity, which included learning about culture by interacting with others, as well as the unconscious bias that many have.
“If we don’t understand our own home culture, if we don’t understand how our culture influences how we see the world, and how we see ourselves in the world, then we can still be moving through the world with bias that can be unconscious to us,” Chambers said.
In addition to being aware of one’s unconscious biases, Chambers also acknowledged the importance of losing the fear that some have when interacting with other cultures, and how the release of this fear can be used to explore and understand others.
“Let go of the fear and let go of the need to be perfect,” Chambers said. “People want to treat others well, but are afraid that something will impede that, usually through their own actions or words.”
On the current social climate in America, Chambers stressed the importance of listening to people, rather than arguing with them.
“I think the climate that our country is in, there’s so much around the total absence of listening and people trying to argue their points of view,” she said. “It’s important to suspend that.”
Eun Lee, a first-year coordinator for the Center for Community Engaged Learning and Research, thought the absence was not limited to just the climate.
“I don’t think it’s just this climate,” Lee said. “I think there’s always been resistance to talking about this. It’s just taken a different form in different ways.”
Sophomore finance major Jamie Cox felt that people often affirm their beliefs to the point where they refuse to listen to the opinions of others.
“I feel like a lot of times, people get very caught up in their own views and having the mindset that it’s your way or the highway, because people feel so strongly about their own beliefs,” Cox said. “When you are listening to someone, you deem them wrong.”