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Posts Tagged ‘inclusiveness’

When it comes to race and race issues, I believe a lot of people would rather not talk about it.  It’s better than it used to be, so why can’t we move on.  I think one of the problems is the lack of experience with racial issues.  Yes, this is another blog about race.  It’s OK, it won’t make you feel bad, but might enlighten you to something that happens on a regular basis.

I’m writing this blog from a hotel.  I got upgraded to a suite.  My suite is not relevant to the blog, I just wanted to say, “my suite”.  The reason I am at a hotel is because I was invited to lead a day long workshop on inclusiveness in the classroom.  A group of professors are interested in making sure that their classroom is a safe learning environment for all students, especially students of color.  I give the university credit.  They looked at the data, and found that the students that were unsuccessful, especially in the science classes, were disproportionately underrepresented minority students.  Faced with this data, they chose to do something about it, but did not know what to do, so they called me.  That last sentences was a bit hyperbole.  I’m not a Ghostbuster, but I think I have a few good things to say on the subject.

I hope the workshop went well, but that is not the point of this blog.  The point of this blog is what happened over lunch.  Our group broke for lunch.  We ate at the institution’s cafeteria.  A group of PhDs, all white, except for me.  While ordering my food, a person behind the counter asked for my ID.  I told her I didn’t have one and I was a guest of the university.  She proceeded to ask for more information and a contact that she could call to get the appropriate account to pay for my meal.  I said I didn’t know the account, but here is the name of the person that is hosting me.  She gave me my food and I went to sit with the rest of the group.

During lunch, I asked if anyone else got “carded”.  Everyone said, no, they did not.  As one of the professors pointed out later, “You are a PhD and still being accused of stealing lunch.”  Yup.

During the second half of the workshop, this began our conversation.  If I, as a 45-year-old professor can’t get lunch without being harassed, how will your students feel in that environment.  But was I “harassed”?  Was it really that big of a deal?  You might be reading this, and think that it was a small, innocent mistake.  Maybe it was a small, innocent mistake, but it might be the 500th time that small, innocent mistake has happened to me.  To me, one of the biggest disconnects between people is their lack of experience with these types of events.  For the professors in that room, they got to experience this little incident indirectly through me, possibly for the first time.  But this has happened to me so many times, it has become my new normal.  If something small like that has happened to me hundreds of times, would you blame me if I lost it on the 501st time?  It would make sense to you to think I was overreacting, but not when you realize how often stuff like that happens.

I was happy on how affected the other professors were by this event.  One professor asked, “What do I do if instead of you it was my student?  And that student was spending the first 20 minutes of my class thinking about the harassment they just received?”  Exactly.

My workshop may have been useless, who knows, but getting to “experience” what it is like to be a minority in a predominantly white institution probably taught more lessons than I could have ever given.  Perspective and experience, we need more of it.


Insert bad transition here …

I have so many blogs that I need to get to, but there is not enough time in my day.  At some point I am going to blog about several questions I have about people.  For example, how common is it to pee in the shower?  Do only guys do it?  This question and more, I would love answers to.  Until next time.

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