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Program addresses issues of diversity, race

Genesis Miranda
Staff Writer

Diversity week was filled with many events all with the goal of changing the way students think about social subjects, including a dialogue on race and ethnicity on Tuesday.

Daniel Loera, multicultural affairs director, held a daily dialogue on various diversity topics throughout the week.

The race and ethnicity dialogue began with a discussion on how people can often misinterpret human interactions.

“You never realize what diversity means until you meet someone different,” Dexter Buchanan, sophomore English major, said.

“I always thought I was African-American until I married an African-American woman,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan is of South American descent, but said that he is often mistaken as African-American.

Whether people notice it or not, race is a significant factor in the way that people perceive others, said Loera.

Loera went on to explain how race starts with a stereotype, then prejudice enters, followed by discrimination and finally a system of advantage for certain groups.

The small group was very engaged in the conversation as they each gave their own experience with stereotypes, race and ethnicity.

People want to stay in their comfort zones which is why they do not get to know other cultures, Loera said.

“Differences are significant, but there are incredible similarities in terms of humanity,” Loera said.

Eric McDanel, a graduate student from Iowa, shared with the group that he identifies himself as white and one-fourth Mexican.

“This discussion helped me understand how others are feeling,” McDanel said.

“Being a white male, I don’t always get to hear from other people.”

“The daily dialogue was a very valuable experience because I got the opportunity to hear what race and ethnicity means to others,” Lili Gradilla, assistant to the director of multicultural services and the program coordinator, said.

“I also got to share my personal experiences in a setting that is hard to come by.”

Later on in the workshop, the human relations non-profit organization Encompass held a one-man play in the Campus Center.

“Encompass is a group of people who came together and found a way to talk about certain issues in a safe environment,” Lex Steppling, program coordinator, said.

The play was followed by a short group discussion.

“Horizon Line” is one of three Encompass Compassion plays.

Kevin Blake, portrayed Danny Curtis, is a 16-year-old who struggles to find his identity and commits a hate crime against a classmate.

“It all starts with words” was one of the many powerful quotes said during the play, which was centered on hate crimes.

During the performance, Blake took on the roles of all the characters and displayed the potentially damaging effects of hate crimes.

“I do my best to understand my characters though I may not agree with them,” Blake said.

“I find myself to be a very passionate guy when it comes to portraying characters for the education of humanity.”

The discussion that followed started with comments and observations about the play and progressed into a variety of topics regarding stereotypes, race and ethnicity.

Overall, the daily dialogue and the one-man play conveyed a powerful message to students.

“I think this day was a powerful opportunity for continued understanding on how these issues impact us both individually and collectively,” Loera said.

“These are opportunities we want to make available to students and the community.”

Although few students were able to attend, Loera said he felt the discussion went smoothly and a lot was learned and taken away from the program.

Genesis Miranda can be reached at genesis.miranda@laverne.edu.

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