By Meredith Kreigh
The second annual Diversity and Culture Forum discussed events and thoughts surrounding diversity issues on Thursday, Sept. 27 on the second floor of the library.
Diversity was defined as more than “One group allowing others to participate; that’s hierarchy,” by panel member senior Ashton Alexander.
This year, the panel was comprised entirely of Bryan students. Seniors Erin Wright and Alexander joined junior Joy Barnett and freshman Daniel Cadiz and spoke in turn, while junior Taylor Hutcherson moderated.
Those four began by highlighting the benefits of diversity, saying that it is valuable because it brings together different ways of life.
The panel set forth four concepts that lead to proper integration of culture: equal inclusion, reasonable acceptance, embracing that which is good and recognizing differences even if they are not positive.
Wright added her visualization: What if you were coloring and all you had was a blue crayon? You couldn’t express a lot of ideas. Every idea, view, and sentiment would be expressed in terms of that singular color. All agreed that when you do not know the “other,” when you are not in contact with them, you don’t know how to engage them. Try to recognize why they believe what they do. Understand their history.
“Let it color you a little bit,” Wright said.
The “big” questions—questions about faith, values and social practices—should be conversation-starters, not conversation-enders. Begin discussion about values. As the relationship progresses, then it is appropriate to debate nuances. One of the barriers to this is that, as English Professor Dr. Ray Legg, weighing in from the audience, said that we, as a people group called to be in the world but not of the world, are afraid to test our knowledge and our very selves in a heavier conversation.
Another topic discussed was what should our response be when we disagree with different cultural practices. Cadiz then stressed that an attitude that is both bold and understanding leads to understanding. The benefits of treating each other with equality are that we can affirm the good qualities and toss out the bad.
“We either don’t risk being bold or we don’t consider being caring,” said Cadiz. “What we require is the boldness to show them what is right in a caring manner.”
Alexander added that, in the act of removing the negative, we must use a gracious rebuke, always erring on the side of human dignity, justice and truth.
“If you avoid looking for places where you will disagree, you will more easily find doorways into gaining a hearing,” Legg added.
Finally, the panel was asked whether or not Bryan’s campus was accepting of diverse cultures. Yes…for the most part. First, Barnett said, ignorance is sometimes perceived as racism and the only way to solve that issue is for the individual to become educated, especially through relationships. There will always be some who feel left out. The goal is to open up discourse; unfortunately, there is not always a suitable platform.
Patience. Understanding. Willingness. Resolution. Those are the components that will lead Bryan College to bridge that gap to, as Legg said, “Develop a mindset that removes classifying adjectives.”