By Arthur Andrew
A diverse group of all races and ages sit attentively in the Kate Buchanan Room in the middle of many busy work and school schedules to discuss a very important issue at HSU and the nation right now. Over the next 15 months the Equity Alliance of the North Coast will be leading training sessions at HSU to lead improvements in racial and social equity. On Sept. 19 Julia Nelson, Dwayne S. Marsh, and Brenda Anibarro led a discussion and workshop on Advancing Equity through a Racial Lens: Putting Theory into Action.
“Racial inequities are a norm across the country,” stated Julia Nelson who is the Senior Vice-President for the Center for Social Inclusion and director of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity. With decades of experience working towards social equity, Nelson explained how she got involved working towards racial equity as a white woman. “I became a young activist in college after being sexually assaulted my first week of school,” said Nelson. The room became totally silent and all attention was placed on Nelson’s next words. Nelson explained how her experience led her to become active with others preventing violence against women. Through numerous trainings and hearing the stories of others, Nelson discovered the areas of marginalization in all areas of society. “Some of the worst racial inequity exists in places that identify as progressive,” explained Nelson, showing the importance of advancing equity on campus and in the community.
As Vice-President of Strategic Partnerships for the Center for Social Inclusion as well as Deputy Director for Government Alliance on Race and Equity, sociologist Dwayne S. Marsh led the attendees through a fun, eye opening activity. Marsh asked the audience questions such as “Are people who engage in public meetings are the ones who care most about the issues?” and “Should hiring and promotion decisions should be based solely on merit?” while grouping individuals into those who agreed, disagreed, or were on the fence. Asking individuals why they agreed or disagreed allowed participants to share their views while highlighting on the institutionalization of inequity present in so many dominant social systems today. “90% of people say they want to have conversations with their neighbors about race,” stated Marsh. “90% of people say their neighbors are not ready.” When we normalize the conversations around race, we can begin to operationalize and organize.
HSU sociology major Zachary Kihm attended the event on Monday and found many of the tools mentioned very helpful.
“Employing the “racial equity tool” was interesting to hear about and did illustrate how the several stages of society – community, local government and institutions, and larger government and institution – are to work together,” Kihm explained. “But my fear is that bureaucracies will eventually take charge which is not good.” Just which direction these events will take the campus and community is exciting in itself. There are more events planned within the next few months. Hopefully, the number of participants will increase and the conversations continue to expand. To find out the schedule for more free events at HSU visit http://www.hafoundation.org/Community-Leadership/EquityNorthCoast.