During the 2012 GLACUHO Annual Conference, I had the honor of serving on a panel focused on the recruitment and retention of Women of Color. The facilitators of the panel set the tone in the room by explaining to the audience that they wanted the session to not only be a safe space, but a real space. This meant that they wanted individuals to feel comfortable asking questions and dialouging about topics that make people uncomfortable or are viewed as taboo. After the session was over, I begin to stew about the notion of "real talk" and it made me recollect on my expereince at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) in 2011.
When you attend NCORE, you know exactly what you are getting into...the title says it all. You come prepared to discuss race, ethnicity, and other topics that may make individuals uncomfortable. What I loved most about NCORE was the open and honest conversation that people were engaging in on taboo topics such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Oftentimes whether we are in a staff meeting, training session, or at a conference and one of these topics comes up people continue to make sure they are politically correct...it is always difficult to have a straightforward honest discussion because someone is in fear of being offensive or being offended.
I attended a couple of sessions that were focused on "Real Talk" at NCORE. This meant that the conversation was going to be blunt, honest, quite possibly abrasive and that there was a possibility that someone would be offended within the session. What is so ironic is that even though I went into those sessions nervous about how the conversation was going to flow, those were the sessions that I learned the most in.
Lee Mun Wah, an amazing diversity trainer and presenter said something in his session on The Future of Diversity Training that continues to stick with me. He said that complete healing comes from complete honesty. As I chewed on this a little more and thought about it in the context of diversity issues and cultural competency I begin to realize that the only way for us as a society to really begin to tackle our issues of race, class, gender, etc...is for us to open up and make ourselves uncomfortable and talk about it.
Now after attending GLACUHO, I am back to processing what it means to truly have completely honest conversations in order to begin to work through the issues within our society. After the recent election, it is evident that we still have a long way to go. I was saddened by the many racist comments posted on twitter after the re-election of our president. Comments posted by high school students, who will be living in my residence halls in the near future. How do I help them to have honest conversations about their views and personal biases? How do I help my colleagues and my peers to understand that these conversations are not restricted to a conference due to the focus of the contemporary issue?
I did not write this blog post to provide the answers, but simply to spark thought. At GLACUHO we were charged by our current President, Grant Walters, to make GLACUHO history everyday. As you go back to your home campus and come down from your GLACUHO high and the administrative tasks build up and your students begin to occupy your time once again, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on how you will facilitate conversation and spark thought amongst your students and colleagues. How will you open the door for complete honestly so complete healing can take place?