Not Seeing the America You Want?

Start Changing It Today

Have conversations with someone different from yourself

Take a stranger to lunch

Practice Random Acts of Kindness

Open your mind to new experiences and people

Go to an event sponsored by a group you know nothing about

INCLUSIVE Excellence
Miami University and You

An essay by Rodney Coates
Professor, global and intercultural studies
Director, black world studies

A square of colorful interlocking puzzle pieces labeled with words such as Thinking Styles, Language, Ethnicity, Religion, Race, Gender, etc. Text: Not seeing the America You want - start changing it todayRecently a set of flyers appeared in various places around Miami University. They quipped “Not Seeing the America You Want? Start Changing It Today."

While concentrating on the obvious racist message, the covert message of white victims might go unnoticed. In fact, the problem with these types of recruitment flyers, and this is indeed what this is, is that attacking the racist message might actually accomplish its purpose. The purpose of any form of terrorism is to provoke a response. The response that is being sought here is to cause fear and knee-jerk pandemonium. What typically will happen is some group(s) will hastily call a set of meetings/events/actions to decry the racist flyer, declare we are one, then go about our business in our separate spheres of indifference.

Having seen this happen over and over again, I wonder if there is not a better way to proceed. First of all, why should we wait until there is an event to declare our unity, why is it that we can hardly speak to each other until one of us is under attack, and why is it that we rarely evoke the “d” word (diversity) until it primarily applies to our particular group?

Maybe we should not play this game the same old way. Maybe we should have some serious discussions about why some might be terrorized by our continual attempts to inculcate them into diversity.

Too bad racism/homophobia/sexism/classism/and all the other isms are not diseases. And no, we do not have a little blue pill or injection that we can give to cure the person/groups.

Every one of us have gone through, been involved, witnessed so many of these programs that it's a wonder that any of us are not deeply and irretrievably bigoted.

Let's start fresh, by first of all acknowledging that our methods are flawed. Our message is wrong, and our purpose, righteous as it may be, is still inadequate. As a friend of mine once remarked, hell is paved with good intentions, but in order to get in the game you gotta put some skin in.

What kind of skin? Maybe, if we started off by being honest with ourselves and many others. In our political correctness, all too often we become the tyrants that we are trying to defeat. Often, we victimize all those who are different than us, and then cry out for diversity to cover all of our ills/sins.

Maybe if we can start with unraveling our own stuff, we can in the process engage in conversations that others might be willing to join in. Maybe, rather than being the ones who are saved, we acknowledge that we are all damaged (both by this system and by our own myopia). Maybe from this vantage point, we can all begin to have the difficult conversations that will lead us to a different space. And maybe, just maybe, we will not add to the problems.