Mohammed Bey, the director for multicultural education at Quinnipiac University, visited our class tonight as a guest speaker. Before we discussed anything, he told us to write down what we immediately thought of when we heard “diversity discussion.” I immediately thought of different races.
After we wrote our thought down, we played a game called traffic jam. Bey placed 11 squares on the floor, five people stood on one side facing one wall, and the other five people stood on the other side facing the other wall, leaving one square in the middle. The object of the game was to have each side switch positions, where a person can only jump one space if the person in front of them is facing the opposite direction. To make it more difficult, all people wearing black could not talk, and some had to keep their heads down so they couldn’t see.
After multiple tries, we had to stop because of the time. We never figured it out, and Bey didn’t tell us either, it’s still bothering me that I don’t know the answer! The people who couldn’t talk explained how frustrating it was not to be able to voice their opinion. Mohammed related this to people in real life who are unable to voice their opinions- the blacks in South Africa, who could not voice their opinions during Apartheid.
After this game, Mohammed told us to think of a time a friend said something about a different race and how we reacted and why they said what they said. I could not think of a specific incident, but I do hear racial comments on a daily basis from people around me. I also could not think of a time someone said something to me specifically. Mohammed explained how he had been called the “N” word several times, and how since we are white, we often get a “free pass.” We can choose whether to be conscious of race and diversity, or unconscious of it.
Although I could not think of a time that personally affected me, I immediately thought of a friend’s story. I visited Israel this winter on a Birthright trip, because I am Jewish. The night before we visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, the group of 45 of us sat in a circle and shared stories of acts of anti-Semitism we faced. One boy in the group told us how he fell asleep at a party and someone drew a swastika on his face, knowing he was Jewish. It amazed me at how unaware people were, and how much they didn’t care to learn about something so horrific. I had never been victimized like that before based on my skin color or my religion, so I honestly don’t know what it is like or what people go through every day.
Mohammed Bey left us by saying we should be conscious of race; we have a choice to.