The importance of discussing diversity
By Sarah Choate
Poor people are lazy. Women can’t drive. Muslims are terrorists. Asians are smart.
We have all heard and bought into stereotypes at some point in our lives. “The good news is we can work past these stereotypes,” said Dr. Carey Ruiz, Asbury’s resident sociologist, at the “Filtering the Bubble” diversity dialogue in the student center on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
“The purpose of the event was to create a space for honest dialogue and discussion amongst our student body,” said Director of Intercultural Programs Esther Jadhav. “It was encouraging to hear [the] students’ dialogue.”
Ruiz, professor of sociology, studied race, class and equality in her post-graduate emphasis. At the diversity dialogue event, she gave a presentation defining and explaining the idea of stereotypes.
Ruiz defined a stereotype as “a faulty generalization of people based on a kernel of truth.” She made the point that stereotypes are faulty because they are based on generalizations. By nature, generalizations overlook individuals. One person may fit into the mold of a certain stereotype, however that does mean every other person of a similar background share in that stereotype.
The dialogue then moved toward how Asbury students view diversity. “Until we are faced with something directly or an issue becomes important to us, we tend to give [it] little, if any, thought,” said Ruiz. “Many people can navigate their daily lives without having to deal with adversity relating to their racial, ethnic and/or religious background…. Just because you have avoided experience with or exposure to discrimination does not mean that others have been so fortunate.”
During the conversation, Ruiz showed a video made by senior Kristin Knapton, in which several Asbury students answered the question, “What do you think of when you hear the term ‘the Asbury bubble?’” This term is often used to describe the mindset that Asbury students are completely sheltered and protected from the “real world” to the extent that they are unable to truly understand and engage other cultures.
Answers to that question ranged from students saying that the Asbury bubble does not exist to commenting that the extreme lack of cultural engagement and awareness is a threat to the livelihood of our campus community.
Three students, Emily Louden, Kara Chapman and Joshua Kulah, moderated this conversation on culture. Each of them gave a little bit of their background story and opinions on diversity, next opening up the dialogue to the audience. Many students spoke out about the Asbury bubble and the role diversity plays at Asbury.
Louden pulled out a really good point when discussing the nature of diversity at Asbury. “I think a lot of times we confuse awareness and engagement,” she said. She suggested that Asburians are well aware of many issues happening in the world; however, we often hide in our protective bubble and neglect our Christian duty to engage the world with Christ’s love and servant’s heart.
In the end, the dialogue on diversity came to this conclusion about the Asbury bubble: it does exist for some people. And it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s OK to have a safe space to learn and grow without the full weight of worldly temptations on your shoulders. However, as Jadhav mentioned in an interview, we must convert the “bubble” into a filter. “Take the Biblical worldview and use it as a filter or a lens to understand…the complex challenges of our times,” said Jadhav.
Ruiz said that Asbury students can better embrace diversity by cultivating meaningful relationships with people of all backgrounds. “Educate yourself on certain issues,” she said. “Read and be willing to expose yourself to different points of view.”
Ruiz continued, saying students should be willing to listen to people who say they have been mistreated. “Understand that appreciating people from diverse backgrounds or who have different beliefs does not mean that you are expected to compromise yourself or your values.
Try not to let fear or discomfort get in the way of reconciliation.”