Recently (as mentioned in my previous post) I attended the Race, Diversity and Campus Climate conference at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. This was an important conference. Not a fun topic but very, very important. I was discouraged to see how deeply racism and prejudice have taken root in our society including our educational institutions. There is nothing particularly unusual about the University of Illinois campus climate concerning race and diversity — I think we are, presently, an average public midwestern university. However we have the potential to become great. The only way to become great in this respect is to develop a fresh, innovative approach.
We need to focus less on trying to persuade people with the ethical argument that creating an inclusive environment is “the right/moral thing to do”. We (those who already believe diversity/inclusivity is a very good thing) aren’t very good at using this; unfortunately we often we resort to guilt tripping and attacking people who aren’t quickly sold on the idea that an inclusive, diverse environment is desirable and basically beneficial to everyone.
Instead we need to focus on the strategies of social entrepreneurs. To get people to engage in the diversity/inclusivity initiative, we need to sell them on the opportunities it creates. We also need to form a grander vision of what inclusivity and diversity means in the larger context of the human race on earth. What we do in individual communities and college campuses affects the whole. The seeds planted here (on this campus or any other campus) propogate throughout society. Plant the right seeds and society benefits as a whole.