Diversity Week sets stage for uncomfortable topics

By Alla Drokina, Eagle Life Writer

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Most people tend to run from what makes them uncomfortable, and this year’s Diversity Week is about facing a certain kind of discomfort.

This is the third year EWU will host Diversity Week. Diversity Week, May 20-22, welcomes students, faculty and staff to expose themselves to other cultures, experiences and people. It is a way to learn about what they might not yet know.

Gloria Ochoa, director of local government and multicultural affairs for the city of Spokane and adjunct professor at Gonzaga University School of Law, is this year’s key speaker. Her speech is entitled “Embracing Uncomfortable Moments.”

Ochoa’s message is about everyone embracing the discomfort which may come from certain situations and topics — situations such as being in the wrong or holding specific prejudices.

Kara LaSota, international student adviser with Global Initiatives at EWU, said there were over 39 applications for the seven open presentation slots. The committee had to narrow them down, keeping in mind what correlated with their theme for this year. However, the presentations that were not chosen will be presented throughout the next school year. They want to make diversity an ongoing conversation, not just a week-long event that occurs once a year.

“This is something that’s important year round,” said LaSota.

Along with the seven presentations, there will be music and a few activities, such as lessons in international traditional dance, diversity festival displays, World Cup soccer event and free food.

Kim Davis, chairperson for the president’s committee on diversity, said that attendance has increased over the years and people are talking about it.

Davis mentioned that the problem with people is that they are too comfortable.

“We’re comfortable with what we know, and sometimes people are afraid to get out,” Davis says.

When it comes to Diversity Week, everyone can learn something, nobody is exempt.

“Everyone is diverse,” said Davis.

Topics for the week range from “Racial Micro-Aggressions” to “Tourette’s.” Dr. LaToya Brackett, Africana coordinator at EWU, will present the talk on microaggressions. She claims that microaggressions are a new form of racism.

In an EWU pamphlet, racial microaggressions are defined as brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group.

“This university is supposed to be the most diverse university in Washington, yet there still seems to be a divide between students learning about each other,” Dr. Brackett said.“This diversity week gives opportunities to learn about different cultures or about different situations for different people. And it’s always good to have an open ear. The best way to learn is to listen.”

Jessica Willis, faculty member in the women’s and gender studies program, said that planning for Diversity Week involved collaborating and working across departments. She said Diversity Week is a way of learning beyond the classroom.

“It’s a celebration of culturally marked differences … a personal celebration. A sense of both cultural recognition but also self worth and self empowerment around identities that are often less visible in society,” said Willis.

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