This article contains practical advice for working with students of color on your campus. Faculty, Staff and especially student services personnel should find these tips helpful.
Working with culturally different students can be extremely rewarding and transformative. On the other hand for those who have had limited contact with students of color, it can be a challenge that requires sensitivity and vulnerability. Because of the potential for mixed signals, suspicion and misunderstanding, it’s important that care be given to how this interaction is to be structured. While do’s and don’ts are unnecessary, it is important to acknowledge some broad generalizations that may prove helpful when working with students of color. If these guidelines are followed you stand a better chance of creating positive interactions.
Remember that racial minorities are not all the same
Avoid the tendency to lump all minorities together or view them as the same. Much has been written about the recent trend of adopting a ‘color-blind’ approach towards people of different ethnicities. Bonilla-Silva and Forman (2000) analyzed interviews and surveys conducted with white college students to highlight a form of colorblind racism where students continued to hold on to prejudiced views but considered themselves to have moved beyond prejudices by not noticing the color of the person they were talking to.
Color blindness as a long-term societal goal may be a good idea, but as it is presently practiced, is a form of prejudice since it denies people their identity and history. Diverse racial and ethnic groups have a different history in the United States, and therefore traveled very different paths to becoming part of the American Society. Lumping all minorities together is tantamount to stripping them of their collective histories, rich cultural heritage and unique experiences in the contemporary society. Helping students accept differences is more than just teaching tolerance. Practicing diversity is key to our survival as a nation and as a member of the world community. Sensitive college personnel who understand this create practices and cultural programming that respects each group’s unique cultural differences.
Stress cultural pluralism and celebrate diversity while downplaying the notion of the U.S. as a melting pot. When one is expressing the sentiment of ignoring differences, one is generally supporting the melting pot theory. Although European immigrants were encouraged to “melt,” generally racial minorities were not permitted to. It is not surprising that the melting pot concept is rejected by many people of color today. Cultural pluralism or multiculturalism is the concept being embraced by such groups. Gold (1977) offers a reason for this when he writes:
“…multiculturalism equates with the respect shown the varied cultures and ethnic groups which have built the United States and which continue today to contribute to its richness and diversity.”
Multiculturalism recognizes that as Americans we share many things in common, but as hyphenated Americans our lifestyles and values need not be the same. The way we dance, speak, party, dress, etc., can reflect our cultural heritage and need not be considered anti-American. Multiculturalism attempts to make the point that differences are not deficiencies.
Despite the many things we have in common, we also share diverse experiences that may only be common to our “racial group.” Integration in the United States for people of color has been qualitatively different than that of the Anglo immigrants. Johnson (1997) discusses the experiences of Mexican immigrants and coins the term ‘ring of fire’ rather than melting pot to describe the difficulties that Mexican immigrants face in becoming citizens of the United States. Therefore, the U.S. has not been a melting pot for people of all ethnicities and to use that term can be construed as showing a lack of historical knowledge and/or cultural insensitivity.
Avoid stereotyping ALANA groups
Watch for stereotyping in language, in media, and in institutional practices. The way in which ALANA (African, Latino, Asian and Native American) groups are portrayed in the media, whether it be the news or popular films can have a significant impact on how people view that group (Bjornstorm, 2010). In general there is a tendency in the news media to report crime or other negative news due to its newsworthiness (Bjornstorm, 2010). When minorities are over represented in such news stories, the public can be influenced into projecting stereotypical negative attitudes towards the entire group.
It is therefore imperative to step back and help college students develop a more informed and critical perspective on how ALANA groups are portrayed in mass media. One should for instance consider the fact that minorities are generally underrepresented among those who are newsmakers, or hold positions of power and influence in the business of news making, and therefore there is a much greater chance for them to be portrayed negatively (Ungerleider, 1991).
We need to take this notion of stereotyping seriously because it affects the quality of life that students of color experience on predominantly white campuses. Solorzano et al’s (2000) study found that minority students were constantly exposed to subtle indicators of prejudice, in the classroom or with their peers. In social situations students reported that African American functions or gatherings were under greater scrutiny and they were held to a higher standard of following rules and regulations as opposed to white gatherings. Students in the study also reported having to spend more effort not only to perform well, but also to do so while navigating a host of racial stereotypes in almost all settings. Many students admitted to changing or dropping courses because of their inability to cope with the racial micro-aggressions in one form or another. [Read More...]
How to overcome Systemic Resistance to Diversity is greatest need of respondents in a national survey
DIVERSITY SURVEY RESULTS
The survey was sent to nearly 300 people across the U.S. The intent was to gather input from a national sample about the key diversity issues that campuses were most interested in addressing. Respondents were asked to reply to three questions listed below. Although demographic information of respondents is provided, there was only one answer that produced any significant variance between respondents. That answer is: “How can I overcome my personal challenges” in response to the first question. This was overwhelmingly submitted by white respondents.
All answers were grouped and organized under broad headings. If an answer was repeated multiple times it became a heading so you can assume that all headings were created based on many respondents answering in similar ways. Examples of submitted individual answers that led to these headings is included. The answers are numbered in order of importance based on the number of responses; meaning answer #1 received the most responses, #2 the next highest and so on.
Male 48% Female 52%
Black 45% White 42%
Asian 7% Multiple Races 6%
If you had 20 minutes of a top-notch diversity consultant’s time to help you with anything you want, what would you ask this consultant?
1. HOW TO OVERCOME SYSTEMIC RESISTANCE TO DIVERSITY
- How to overcome systemic resistance on topics of diversity and equity?
- How do I generate belief and trust in the system?
- How do you get administrators to invest real money into diversity programs and initiatives?
- Why isn’t there a curriculum requirement to teach African American Studies in all schools and universities in the U.S? [Read More...]
Novel helps campuses discuss racism and other issues faced by African American college students. Check out 3-Chapter Excerpts and decide for yourself
Educators know that one of the biggest challenges we face is getting our students to open up about uncomfortable issues like racism and discrimination on campus. I’m pleased to share information about my mystery-thriller novel- Lakeside University Cover Up that will make addressing that challenge a little less difficult.
The novel is being praised as a tool for discussing diversity and inclusion in a way that genuinely engages students. I invite you to include this book as part of your 2015 class readings or as a common read for your school. If there was ever a time that we needed a national dialogue on race, that time is now! It can start with your campus.
As Gloria, the main character shows, by finding the courage to be vulnerable and authentic, we can discover a common language to connect with each other on a deep emotional level as fellow human beings. I’ve included three chapters from the novel to allow you to decide for yourself. Thank you for your consideration and best wishes for 2015!
Enough was enough. Dean of Students, Todd Severson stormed into President David Horning’s office and slammed the door. “Sir, we need to do something!” Severson said,
lowering himself into the chair across from Horning’s antique desk. “Your divide and conquer strategy is backfiring—we have to do something and do it fast, or this university will explode!”
President Horning glanced up from his coffee. “That’s a bit dramatic, Todd, don’t you think?”
Severson leaned forward in his chair and pressed his palms against the desktop. “A black student has just been attacked!” he said. “Classes are being disrupted. The police are running themselves ragged, trying to keep everything under control. Now we have threats of a major civil rights demonstration being held on our campus!”
Horning looked at Severson and frowned. “Why don’t you just calm down,” he said. “We’ve weathered crises before. This isn’t any different.”
Severson stared back, his jaw askew. “Sir, I beg to disagree! We may have been able to smooth things over in the past, but this is very different. This could turn violent—even more violent than it already has become. And it’s just a matter of time before the media plasters this mess all over the front page.”
Before Horning could respond, his phone rang. As he reached to answer it, Severson stood up to leave. “Hold on Todd. Let me get this. This might be the call that will get us out of this damn mess,” Horning said, as Severson paced the floor.
*** [Read More...]