October 23, 2017

Colleges & Universities must enter the fight for Racial equity

I entered college in the late 1960s at a time of great civil unrest. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed, Lyndon Johnson had announced that he would not seek re-election and our cities were exploding with racial discontent. Despite what looked like total despair from the outside, there was still this promise of hope-that America would get it right this time and create this multiracial democracy that would include all of us; that surely the civil rights era would be the time when racial equality would become a reality.

Blacks were entering college in record numbers after the passage of Civil rights legislation and the Higher Education Acts. Social programs were expanded. Government spending for training and jobs increased. Although discrimination continued, these advances were significant. Equally as important were the “intangibles.” The consciousness of not just African-Americans but other people of color, and millions of whites had substantially changed.

As a result I thought I had a legitimate reason to believe that in my lifetime I would be able to sit under the tree of racial equality and that our colleges and universities would lead the way. As I grew older I hoped that in my son’s lifetime that he would be able to sit under that same tree. Now I’m not at all convinced that my grandson will find shelter under that tree either.

Will we someday create a multiracial democracy that truly represents all of us? What role will our colleges and universities play? Will they continue to sit on the sidelines aloof from tackling the real social problems that continue to plague us; or will they get in the ring and go toe to toe with injustice, racial disparities and give meaning to the pledge: one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all? Those questions are just as important today as they were 45 years ago. I realize that we have powerful forces wedded to the status quo and that’s why I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime. My life and my generation’s lives are still needed to plant seeds so that some future generation will be able to bask in the shade. I understand that now.

But I also understand that change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We have to fight for change and we need our institutions of higher education to enjoin this fight and make the goal of social justice their clarion call too. Our great academic institutions are charged with “educating” millions of college students annually. Just imagine if they graduated these students with a passion for correcting inequities instead of replicating them.

That was my hope 45 years ago and unless these institutions undergo a radical shift I’m afraid it will be my grandson’s hope 45 years from now.

 

Why your campus should consider a Multicultural Retreat

retreat-lake

Lake Minnewaska Trail — Minnewaska State Park, New York.
Photo by Doug Kerr.
Great friendships have started by the lake

A multicultural retreat is a structured activity which allows White and ALANA (African, Latino, Asian and Native American) students an opportunity to explore racial and cultural issues in a secluded setting that is free of major distractions.

Participants who generally do not know each other are asked to spend two to three days away from campus eating, rooming and working together. Participants are asked to submerge themselves in learning about ALANA cultures. Because of the time they are required to spend together, participants eventually ‘drop their guard’ and allow their ‘true’ feelings to surface. A seasoned facilitator will not only move this process along, s/he will also create an atmosphere where honest disclosure is expected.

During the retreat participants are able to discuss, debate, and contribute in ways that may help them discover, share, and broaden their awareness of themselves in relationship to the multicultural world at large. Activities, speakers and discussion groups focus on objectives which are designed to ensure that the experience participants are exposed to, challenge their beliefs, confront their values and require some type of follow up action.

A cultural retreat is designed to be informational and educational. Three aspects of culture are presented on each ALANA group that is featured. 1) The cultural contributions-music, dance, art, etc., 2) problems the group faces in contemporary American society, and 3) the group’s U.S. and world history. The intent is to provide participants a context in which to understand the issues impacting a particular ethnic group.

The retreat experience is not designed to be complacent. It is dynamic and at times confrontational. However, as a result of such discourse, a certain bonding often takes place between participants. A sense of community among the participants frequently occurs. This process of permitting oneself to be vulnerable and open to new ideas often gives one an insight that results in increased cultural awareness.

Comments like, “I had no idea…,” are common during and after the retreat. Even the free time serves an important purpose during the retreat because participants are required to spend half of it with someone of a different “racial” group. When you consider the cultural activities, ethnic speakers and the great outdoors, all these things contribute to making the retreat an effective human relations experience.

I’ve witnessed firsthand how retreats have transformed lives and led to long-term friendships. Here’s a letter I received from a participant many years ago. [Read more...]

TOP 20 DIVERSITY & INCLUSION DO’s and DON’T’S for COLLEGE CAMPUSES by Tyra Nelson

DO’S

  1. DO be aware of your own position of privilege, as described by Peggy McIntosh in this article: http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html
  2. DO create, promote, and encourage multicultural/identity awareness programming and activities in your classrooms/residence halls/departments.
  3. DO aspire toward equity: to treat all of your students/residents/colleagues what THEY will perceive as decent and respectful.
  4. DO learn the correct pronunciations of the names of your students/residents/colleagues.
  5. DO ask questions and DO research to learn about communication/lifestyles of your diverse residents.
  6. DO create programming that shows an awareness of the multiple identities embraced by your students/residents/colleagues.
  7. DO take advantage of the many opportunities on and off campus to experience diversity and inclusion.
  8. DO promote inclusivity, awareness, and understanding with words as well as with actions and beliefs!
  9. DO consider diversity as a responsibility as well as an opportunity!
  10. DO understand that this work can be tough, but it can also be quite rewarding! [Read more...]

KEY DIVERSITY MODELS

Williams and Clowney (2007) have identified and labeled four primary diversity models currently operating in higher-education institutions. According to the authors, each model characterizes diversity uniquely and proposes a different set of policies, programs, initiatives, and structures to reach specific goals. The models may occur simultaneously, although it is rare for them to be intertwined and exist in the same organizational division or structure (Williams and Clowney, 2007).

The Affirmative Action and Equity model, according to the researchers, is defined as the model that aimed to change overt barriers to education and employment for minorities and women. This model generally holds that institutions have a moral obligation to affirmatively redistribute opportunity to protected groups and ameliorate the current effects of past discrimination.

This model was therefore supposed to rectify past wrongs by creating policies that would end overt discrimination, through spurring change in demographic representation. Although meant initially for racial minorities, this model has been of great benefit to women, war veterans and people with disabilities.  While this model does indeed help by increasing the number of minorities and underrepresented groups, it does not take the next step of changing the institutional culture to make it more inclusive. While it is a necessary first step, it’s still only part of the puzzle.

Indian graphic Picture1Diversity Tip: Just recruiting more people of color, but doing nothing to make the institution friendlier for them, is like electing the first black president and declaring that racism has now ended. [Read more...]

3 Ways to keep your writing Unique

Discover your voice

If someone read a passage out loud from your favorite author, chances are you would know her without the reader having to identify her. You immediately recognize her voice and style of writing. It feels and sounds authentic to you. Ultimately as a writer, that’s where you want to be. You want to have a brand that’s uniquely yours and recognizable to your followers. It really doesn’t matter the genre you’re writing in, what’s important is that you discover your voice and hone it so that people begin to connect with you.

Know your audience

The clearer you are about who you’re writing for the more authentic your story becomes. If you claim you’re writing for the general public, that tells me you’re writing for a phantom reader. You’re hoping that your story will connect to this ghost reader without really knowing what he’s interested in reading. On the other hand if you tell me you’re writing for single women in their 40s who’ve never been married, it becomes easier to picture your audience. You can find out what interests them and romance them with your writing.  Once you’re clear on your niche then your writing can become personal as if talking to an old friend. You may just find that your audience in turn will reveal more about themselves and that will enable you to remain relevant and special to them.

Continue to Grow

Writing is still very much a craft which means we all can improve our writing skills. We can learn better ways to build suspense or make our characters more vulnerable. It’s been my experience that writers who create an annual personal professional development plan to strengthen their craft reap great returns on their investment. Successful writers still attend writing workshops, network with their peers, mentor local writing clubs and engage in activities that grow their skills.

Of course there are other ways to keep your writing unique but I think these three are indispensable.

Although diversity issues are his niche, every now and then Dr. Taylor will share information about writing, marketing and publishing for readers. This article was written when his novel, Lakeside University Cover Up was on virtual tour.

Financial Diversity, Inclusion, and the Myth of the “Need Blind” College

By Anthony-James Green

Anthony-1

If you’re applying to college, and you need financial aid, then you’re probably aware of the concept of “need-blind admissions.”  Colleges don’t look at students’ financial status before deciding whether to admit or reject them, meaning, ostensibly, that financially under-privileged students don’t stand any disadvantages when it comes to college admissions.  Schools can’t reject a student simply because he or she needs financial help.  One would assume that this would level the playing field for students without the financial resources of their more economically advantaged peers.  Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong.

Colleges might not look at your financial needs, but they still care very much about whether or not you’ll be able to pay.  So instead of looking at student finances, they’ve created a system in which the factors for admission are blatant indicators of financial advantage or disadvantage.

When making admissions decisions, colleges look at student SAT and ACT scores, school competitiveness, GPA, essays, and extracurricular activities.  Every single one of these factors is completely linked to the financial success of a student’s parents.

Think of the “dream applicant” in this scenario.  He goes to a competitive prep school with a fantastic GPA, has high SAT scores, and is the captain of the crew team.  What are the chances that this student isn’t extremely financially advantaged?  Slim to none. [Read more...]

Advice for Parents to Give their Kids Entering into College about Diversity

By Dr. Charles Taylor, Dr. Denise Ajeto, Professor Emeritus Angela Provitera McGlynn, Derek Johnson, and Dr. Aldo Billingslea

It seems like every week we read about another racial incident on some college campus and the traditional college response to that incident. While colleges must continue to provide anti-racist and diversity training, perhaps it time for them to become more proactive and reach students before they arrive on campus.

One group that could play a critical role in challenging students’ attitudes about diversity and inclusion is parents. Students still listen to their parents at least up to their junior year in college. Parents can be a tremendous resource in helping to improve the campus climate by having the diversity conversation with their kids before sending them off to school.

The question then becomes-what advice should parents give to their kids. I asked colleagues from around the country to help me draft a letter about diversity that parents can give to their kids before sending them off to college. What do you think?

figure head with graduation cap and books

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Son/Daughter,

Acquire Cultural Competency Skills

First and foremost we want you to know that diversity benefits everyone. It is something to be celebrated, embraced and not feared. We’re sending you off to college with the expectation that you will engage intellectually and socially with all types of people. We don’t want you to live your life in fear of others. We want you to become culturally competent and that’s different from just being tolerant of others. Cultural competency is the ability to engage people in ways that respect and honor their culture. In fact, it means learning to celebrate our differences as well as finding the common humanity we all share. A well educated person has an understanding and appreciation of people from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds and understands the normal variations in human sexuality.

Learning to become culturally competent is a process that requires a personal commitment to on-going learning and growth, a capacity for self-reflection, the ability to be open-minded and accountable for your actions. A very important step is to develop knowledge and awareness of your own cultural lens, and the assumptions, values and biases that shape this lens – including recognition of the limitations of your own knowledge and perspective. [Read more...]

SPECIAL BLACK HISTORY MONTH BLOG: WHAT THE OTHER WES MOORE MEANT TO ME

This speech was delivered at Edgewood College as part of their ‘Common Read’ program. I was one of four panel members asked to respond to the book: The Other Wes Moore. The book is about two African American males, with the same name and similar backgrounds that grew up in the inner city of Baltimore, Maryland. One became a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-african-american-college-students-image29022227

Black College students succeeding despite the odds

The Other Wes Moore  did cause me to critically examine the social reality in which many urban blacks are forced to exist and reflect on the serious problems facing American society like poverty, race, crime, and limited opportunity. For me it was never about which Wes Moore succeeded but rather the need to explain the conditions that causes too many Wes Moores to fail.

The author Wes Moore succeeded not because racism has died, but because of a support system that got him through. We must ask ourselves what is it about our system that continuously fails the poor and black males in particular. Is poverty an individual problem or a structural one? Those who believe it’s an individual problem typically blame the other Wes Moore for his fate in life. They’ll say if he wasn’t raised in a single family household; or if he just had more determination or if he would have just done this or that. To be sure all of this carries a grain of truth, but it places the blame for his condition primarily on his shoulders as if external factors bare no blame.

The condition in which both Wes Moore’s found themselves just didn’t happen overnight. I often tell my students that if you want to get at the root causes of contemporary problems (especially involving race), you have to study their historical origins. So I’d like to use my 10-minutes to take a look back and put The Other Wes Moore into a broader historical perspective and perhaps point out some similarities between then and now.

There were at least 3 significant historical periods that had a profound impact on black Americans quest for equality in this country: 1) The Indentured Servitude Period; 2) Reconstruction and 3) the modern Civil Rights Era. [Read more...]

EDUCATION IS YOUR TICKET OUT

This is excerpts from a speech that I gave to young people several years ago at an Urban League’s MLK breakfast event. The full speech is in the Resource Center.

mlk02

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968

….Dr. King stressed education because he knew that education could be a ticket out for poor folks whom he so deeply loved and served. I know some young folks think they can dribble or sky hook their way out, or gangster rap their way out, but that’s like looking at a mule’s behind and predicting how big a load it can pull. Sports and hip-hop are long-shots. Education is a sure thing. It’s your ticket out. It opens up endless possibilities, but it requires some sweat equity. As a farmer once said, you can’t plough the field by turning it over in your mind. We need you to take a big swig from the fountain of knowledge-don’t just gargle…….

Young people listen to me now. We need you to continue to be leaders and fill our colleges and not our jails. We need you in our talented and gifted classes and not our remedial ones. We need you to make the honor roll list and not the suspension list. Education is your ticket out. [Read more...]

Getting Noticed

By Charles Taylor

MJS doyle02, nws, sears, 1-1 doyle02

National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign Chair Rev. Ronald V. Myers presents WI Governor James Doyle with Juneteenth book

Most writers will never see their works on the best sellers list or be invited to appear on Oprah’s show. Are we destined to a life of obscurity, typing away in our home offices in seclusion hoping someone will notice us, read our manuscripts and introduce us to the cheering masses?

Getting noticed is becoming increasingly important to authors hoping to make a livelihood out of writing. Entertainers have long known about the importance of promoting their brand. Admittedly some have gone to extremes to become better known but you can’t argue with their success. [Read more...]