Why are we still afraid to talk about race?

This will be a quickie post, but I wanted to express myself in a longer format.

Today, I went to a workshop/seminar titled, “Power, Privilege, and Oppression”, which is part of a series dedicated to building a socially conscious community. Going into the workshop/seminar, I did not think that my eyes would be open any further or that I would be even more “woke” than I was before the event. For example, I did not think there was a term for discrimination against particular body types. See how bad I am? I forgot the damn term, but it was an “ism”. This was an event designed to start dialogues about issues surrounding identity and inclusion between faculty, staff, and students. I believe there were about 18-21 people in the group; however, it was purposely meant to be smaller group.

A few things that I took away from this workshop/seminar:

  1. I was one of two black men in the group (the other black person was a freshman), and there were no black women in attendance. I was actually a little shocked with this lack of turnout, as women usually make up the majority of these types of events. The participants were predominately white, which is not a big surprise at this institution. I just was a little shocked that there weren’t more people of color in attendance, even for a 2hr, 10:30 AM, Friday seminar during a wintery mix storm.
  2. The first question asked by the moderator was something like: what do you think the most prevalent issue that involves identity and inclusion? Person 1 said gender. Person 2 said sexual orientation. Next, there was a noticeable moment of silence. Then, I said “clearly race“. Mentioning race seemed to get the conversation started, but it was like everyone was afraid to say race. It seemed like everyone was thinking that  “I know that this is an issue in the US but I do not want to be the one to bring it up.” To be completely honest, I was a bit hesitant to say it too. Mainly because, sometimes when people of color talk about these types of issues, we are seen as being “too sensitive”. The words “get over it” comes to mind as a typical response. Although this was a workshop about identity and inclusion, there was a sense that a problem does not exist if it is not spoken about.
  3. I chuckled to myself, because this group wanted to start a student council to further address these issues. So, I asked the facilitator if the participants in the program that I direct could join and she (I think that moderator used “she”, “her”, and “hers” pronouns) said that it was open only to “actual” undergrad and graduate students. To be clear, my program is a postbac program for underrepresented groups in STEM fields. Let me get this straight, you had this TWO-HOUR workshop on identity and inclusion but you are EXCLUDING a particular student population?!!!

I may expand on these thoughts at a later time.


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