One issue we cannot ignore as leaders is the issue of ethnic diversity. This might be a defining topic of our times and on our campuses. As a team we cannot not give this attention. But where do we start? This lead us to Big Rock #3 (See: Identifying the Big Rocks.)
Ethnicity, culture and diversity are complicated issues. Therefore, as a team we desire to have a posture of humility and of teachability. We do not have all the answers, but we can ask some questions. A few questions we are asking:
What steps can we take to be LEARNERS of others?
Reading and Leading: One way as leaders we can have a learning posture is through the choice of books we read. We are reading and recommending books on our team- especially in the areas of ethnicity and culture. (See a short list below.)
Curiosity and Listening: Whether we are reaching out to a neighbor, a classmate, or an acquaintance we desire to be learners. We talk in our movement about being curious of others. This is not a “nosy” curiosity but a genuine and caring curiosity that helps us to listen and learn. This involves learning to ask questions and hear their answers.
Are we REPRESENTING our students well?
Including and Addressing: What do we need to address? During a meeting one of our black students shared about some of her experiences early into college, which opened the eyes of all our students. We had a focus group with a good group of our students of African descent to listen and hear from them and see what next steps we could all take. Some of our topics during our main meeting have tried to touch on some of these issues.
Variety in Diversity: Who are our students? As we ask questions and learn we realize how much we don’t know. Even though our campus is of a majority white ethnicity we are discovering that students have complex and varied backgrounds, whether black, white, Hispanic or Asian. Many of our students are considered “white,” yet have one parent of an ethnic minority. As I get to know Asian Americans I find they have parents from all parts of Asia- China, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, etc. Each country is distinct in it’s culture. Many of our black students who are involved in our movement have parents who are directly from other countries like: Jamaica, Africa or the DR. So within diversity there is diversity!
How can we increase diversity in those who are LEADING?
Upfront and behind the scenes: We want the students we represent to have a voice into things and be heard. We want to hear their opinion in bigger things,like on the topics we address, or in the smaller things, like the t-shirt we order for our organization. We hope them to lead in positions that help shape the organization. All areas need shaping, but specifically in our main meeting, social media, outreach and as bible study leaders. Will students regularly see students leading who look like them, so they would want to lead and have a voice in our organization?
Furthering and going deeper: To grow our leaders in this area we have much to learn. There are changes that will need to be made. We are not sure what those charges are yet. We are sending four of our staff to a cultural diversity training that we hope will help us to take steps in the right direction. We do desire to pursue diversity, it just feels like a slow pursuit- like we are taking baby steps.
This just scratches the service. But these are the questions we are asking right now. Leading well is not having all the answers but it is knowing what questions to ask- and to know as a good leader we will never stop asking questions.
Some books we have read:
A Just Mercy (see my Favorite Reads list for some of these.)
The New Jim Crow
Divided by Faith
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
The Blood of Emmett Till
Right Color Wrong Culture
Letters to a Birmingham Jail