The Diversity Dilemma

I think it’s the word itself, diversity, that makes everyone so uncomfortable. “Diversity” to most is merely balancing the amount of blacks with the amount of whites and suddenly people lay their heads on their pillows at night thinking all is right with the world. But is it?

This weekend Randolph-Macon College was lucky enough to host Dr. T. Leon Williams for our annual Dream Speak Conference. With over 20 years of experience in the field of multicultural affairs, he was a perfect resource for our predominantly white institution. He began with volunteers whom he asked to recite the very first thing that came to their mind when he said words like “Obama” or “white female” and the anxiety in the room was palpable. What are you supposed to say? There are plenty of faces staring at you, waiting to be offended, yet that fear it what stops us from having those conversations. Dr. Williams wanted to push beyond that.

He claims that diversity initiatives aren’t inclusive and therefore everyone feels left out. Despite the best efforts of many, the programs, or lack thereof, just don’t seem to be cutting it anymore. First, he says, whites are consistently excluded as some sort of payback for inherited privilege. And a sigh of relief goes through the mostly white crowd that deflates some of the tension. Some one said it out loud.

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Racism is real. So is ableism, sexism, ageism, and any other -ism you can think of. People everywhere are judged for the way they were born. Dr. Williams opened the door for us to reevaluate our campus attitude by changing blame into power.

And for that we are incredibly grateful.

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