In an interview at our staff training this summer, Dr. Deneese Jones mentioned how her identity as a black woman has shaped many of the experiences and interactions that led her to where she is today. And then the staff member interviewing her moved on to a different topic.
All our lives we are told not to make people feel uncomfortable and to be polite. It could be awkward to ask about what Dr. D meant or what specific experiences were most formative in her career. As a white person, did that staff member even have the right to ask this woman about the black experience? Before the interview was over, Dr. D went back to that moment. She said that she set up the conversation to lead into a more substantial discussion, but that staff member didn’t take the opportunity.
That interview was full of stories from a wise, interesting and accomplished woman but most of us will remember one thing from Dr. D: Don’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations.
Similarly, W. Kamau Bell, who spoke at Trinity on Monday, encouraged the audience at his presentation to embrace opportunities to learn from members of groups other than our own. He echoed Dr. D’s emphasis on the importance of pushing yourself to consider others’ experiences when trying to understand others’ actions or reactions.
Inspired by these and other leaders, our staff is excited to take what we are learning and encourage our campus to have those uncomfortable conversations in order to learn about, appreciate and respect each member of our community. This issue will be the first in a series of articles and opinion pieces on diversity, inclusion and political correctness. We welcome and encourage reader participation in the form of guest columns or questions and comments to our Twitter (@Trinitonian) or Facebook (The Trinitonain) accounts.