Picture this: A practice-oriented, elective graduate course focused on navigating the challenges of equity, diversity, and inclusion that one may face in his or her career. A diverse group of students. All privileged in the sense of having a four year degree and embarking on a masters degree. Different in their lived experiences of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, family structure, regional upbringing, physical ability, and so on. A group of bright, well-intended, kind individuals. Different in their personal or observed experience with discrimination of many types.
They are a perfect group of people for this experiential class, which provides a safe practice ground to learn how to engage in dialogue about issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. The first three weeks gave them the opportunity to build trust and empathy in small groups while learning about each other’s lived experiences. And yet a small number of students in what I’ll call a “bubble” are struggling to understand the value of the course to them because they’ve not experienced discrimination of any kind. Rather than understanding it as a chance to get to know others’ experience, they are centering themselves and saying “I don’t get it” when asked to create a group narrative about the way their team would encounter differential challenges in the workplace. As in “I haven’t experienced racial bias – I don’t know how to say I’d support you as a team member.”
Much like real life, isn’t it? Those who have lived with the most privilege AND don’t recognize their own privilege continue to place the burden for making progress on those whose lived experiences include racism, sexism, ableism, classism, heterosexism, and other forms of isms. And many of these burdened individuals are Flat. Out. Tired. of trying to convince people in the bubble that they should try to get it because WE ALL LIVE IN THIS WORLD TOGETHER.
Next week’s focus is on the dynamics of power, and includes white supremacy and racism. Teams will discuss it with each other and then share with the full class the impact of white supremacy and racism on their own lives. Because – and I’m speaking to my fellow white people here – white supremacy and racism have had an impact on our lives. Most likely positive. We need to be honest and admit to it so we can do our own hard work of dismantling it. We need to share the burden. If this experiment works, the new title for the next article will be OH! I. Get. It. Now! Stay tuned…