After reading the excerpt from Shankar Vedantam’s book, it made me start thinking about my childhood and how I had been impacted by my parents and the culture I was raised in. Race was not something that was discussed much or really thought about, but I noticed as I grew up that I did start to think that me trying to be colorblind wasn’t necessarily a positive thing. During undergrad I was participating in a training prepping for orientation when colorblindness around race was the main topic of conversation and there was a heated conversation going on. The professional didn’t do anything to stop the conversation, but let both sides and perspectives be heard in the room and I think it was that moment that several people in the room finally understood that it was better to have productive conversations versus trying to act like everything is perfect and there aren’t still racial issues happening everyday.
This connects to the implicit bias tests slightly as I had the RA’s that I supervise take a few of the tests and discuss their results with each other. They were shocked by some of their results and a little frustrated when some of them did not get the positive results they were expecting. Unfortunately, at first they did not want to embrace the conflict and have those conversations, but found that they learned a lot about each other and themselves from having those conversations. While listening to some of their conversations, it made me think of my sister and some of her experiences after she got married and took on a new last name. Her maiden name is Cheatham, but her current last name is Ching, so when people came to find “Mrs. Ching” they were expecting to see my sister. I don’t think my sister realized what the impact was going to be until after she experienced some of the different looks just based off a last name, especially since she teaches at an elementary school that is not diverse at all.
Katherine Philips brought up a great thought and presented a great question that I have heard many people talk about in that they don’t know what good diversity does us and ask: what is the upside? I have had to have many conversations with new students about the importance of diversity and trying to get them understand what diversity actually means to them. Once they start to understand what diversity entails and we can unpack some of their beliefs and reasons for their beliefs it is easier to discuss the positive impacts of diversity on the world as well as the negative impacts not respecting others who are different from you. Working in Higher Education, this is going to be a constant challenge that we as professionals are going to have to continue to work at and try to help as many people as possible understand the importance of diversity.