Diversity director encourages inclusion

first_imgEric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion, presented to leaders and volunteers from nonprofit organizations Tuesday as part of the University’s Nonprofit Breakfast Series. The series, presented by the University’s Office of Public Affairs and the Mendoza College of Business, is designed to help nonprofit organizations learn from human resource experts to better manage employees. Love’s presentation was the third in the four-part series and focused on the benefits of diversity and how to better serve all constituents. “Inclusion is what we do with diversity,” he said. “If we really value diversity, if we really think it’s important, that inclusion is so important. We can only get the benefits of diversity if we give each other a voice and allow them to speak and share their perspective. “So together, diversity and inclusion are policies and practices of inclusion that promote understanding of cultural differences and encourage cooperation across the boundaries of diverse co-workers.” The benefits of diversity, according to Love, include enhanced critical and complex thinking, greater academic and work success and “greater engagement in the lifelong learning of understanding people and cultures in order to develop a more democratic community and equitable society.”“When we start working with people who are different from us, we start to care about them, we care about their communities,” he said. “We start to care about other communities outside of our own.”The first step to becoming more inclusive, Love said, is to focus on yourself. “I strongly believe awareness is the first step — the more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more comfortable we are with other people,” he said. “If you know who you are, it doesn’t really matter who someone else is, because you’re secure with yourself. You’re comfortable with whoever else someone might be.” When addressing organizations, Love said leaders should aspire to be “multiculturally competent.” “An organization is multiculturally competent when its members, majority and minority, have knowledge of, respect for and the skills necessary to interact with people from other cultures, within an international and domestic context,” he said. When striving for multicultural competency, Love said microaggressions, which he defined as “brief and commonplace” indignities that communicate “hostile or negative slights or insults,” are a crucial part of communication to be aware of. “They are reminders that recipients are not in the majority,” he said. “They can happen to women, to people of color, to people with disabilities and they add up to a pattern of exclusion. One microaggression is like a paper cut — it might sting a little bit, but ultimately it’s not that big of a deal. But multiple microaggressions every day, every week, over time can really start to add up.”While it is important to be inclusive, the fear of “saying something wrong” shouldn’t prevent important conversations from happening or questions from being asked, Love said. “Political correctness had noble intentions and it started to get us communicating in a more civil way,” he said. “But terminology changes and it can be hard to keep up. We all make mistakes; I’m the diversity guy and I make mistakes.”Tags: Diversity, eric love, mendoza college of business, Nonprofit Breakfast Serieslast_img read more

A celebration and a challenge

first_img June 1, 2004 Associate Editor Regular News A celebration and a challenge Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Part history lesson, part celebration, part personal challenge to truly accept that all persons are created equal, the Florida Supreme Court honored the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education with a special ceremony May 17.From the testimony of Justice Peggy Quince of still going to segregated schools in Virginia a decade after the decision, to a rousing rendition of “Never Give Up” sung by Tallahassee high school teacher Pamela Patterson that had the audience swaying to the beat, the hour-and-a half-program inspired a packed courtroom to take the principles of equality to heart.Everyone gathered to honor what Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead called “the most important human rights decision ever rendered.”School children listened in amazement at how things used to be, while their elders who suffered through those shameful times nodded in recognition of an era when blacks could not vote, serve on juries, or go to school with whites, when race riots polarized a nation, and claimed many lives.Retired Justice Leander Shaw set the scene, detailing history from when the colonies met in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution to a divided nation during the Civil War, to the 1896 Plessey v. Ferguson decision that ushered in the era of “separate but equal” and made a mockery of the equal protections of the 14th Amendment.Shaw continued his history lesson to the early 1950s, when an 8-year-old third-grader named Linda Brown was barred from a public school conveniently located seven blocks from her house — just because she was black.“ Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas” is one of those rare landmark cases that fundamentally and forever changed the face of America,” Shaw said, adding its impact reaches far beyond the simple issue of public school integration.“It was the opening salvo in the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s, a movement that changed the social and political fabric in America. It was a giant step in the direction of fulfilling America’s promise of freedom, justice, and equality for all, and equality for all of Florida’s citizens,” Shaw said.“In Brown, we see the nation’s highest court in a unanimous opinion, ignoring three-quarters of a century of precedent and responding to evolving special values.”An undercurrent to the ceremony’s message was that change was still slow to come after the 1954 landmark decision, and the challenge continues to this day.With passion propelling his words, Miami lawyer H.T. Smith reenacted arguments made by a team of NAACP lawyers for Brown, delivered by Thurgood Marshall:“The whole world is waiting to see whether this court will say to Negro children that they are not entitled to the same liberties to learn as other children, simply because they are black.. . . We are not like the animals in George Orwell’s satirical novel, Animal Farm, where after the revolution, the dictator changed the sign that read all animals are created equal, to read, ‘but some animals are more equal than others.’ There is no provision in the Constitution of the United States of America that reads, ‘All men are created equal, but white men are more equal.’ Under the provisions of this Constitution, and under the protection of this court, the Negro proclaims to the world today that he, too, is equal.”Just as a crowd gathered 50 years ago at the nation’s highest court during the noon hour on May 17 to await the ruling, the current audience gathered at Florida’s high court in 2004, and imagined the words recited by Chief Justice Anstead were those of Chief Justice Earl Warren:“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life, if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity where the state has undertaken to provide it is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.. . . We conclude that the public education doctrine of separate but equal has no place. Separate education facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. It is so ordered.”In the marbled halls of justice in Tallahassee, where history was brought to life, applause broke out.Bringing a personal touch to the proceedings, Justice Quince reeled back the years to being a little girl growing up in Virginia, one of the states involved in the Brown lawsuit.“When the decision was announced, my father said to us, ‘Now you can attend any school that you want to.’ But it wasn’t that easy. So in the fall of 1954, when I went off to the first grade, I went to John T. West Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia, the segregated school. In 1954, only the cities of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, began a desegregation program.”The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided “ Brown II, ” Quince explained, and determined that integration should take place “with all deliberate speed.”“But therein lies the rub. What is, in fact, ‘all deliberate speed’?” Quince asked.“The Brown v. Board of Education was not the most popular decision in this country. There were many who were opposed to it. And so, in 1956, 100 members of Congress from the 11 southern states penned what they called the Southern Manifesto, whereby they determined to fight integration with all means necessary.”In Virginia, that meant the schools shut down until a federal court decision opened the doors again. And for schoolgirl Peggy, it was not until 1965 that Virginia finally decided to implement what it called the “freedom of choice plan.”“Now, I was a senior in high school.. . and so I did not take advantage of their generous offer,” Quince said. Her brother, just beginning high school, did choose to go to the integrated school closest to their home. But in 1968, the Supreme Court decided the “freedom of choice plan” was insufficient to accomplish integration, ushering in a new era of court decisions and strategies that included busing, and the struggle continued.Janet Sermon, assistant dean of Florida A&M University, did choose to leave the “quality segregated schools” of Tallahassee, where she was taught with “care and compassion” and was instilled with a love of learning. In the 10th grade, she was among a select group of blacks admitted to Florida High, the Florida State University research school.“I must say that it actually was the absolute worst year of my life, learning in a hostile environment, foreign to me,” Sermon said.Signs of prejudice may not have been blatant, but they were “subliminal,” said Sermon, recalling how she sat in biology class shaking with fear, enduring a year of migraine headaches and falling grades. For the last two years of high school, she attended Leon High School, and proudly told how blacks were instrumental in removing the Confederate flag from the school. In her senior year, she was one of two black girls chosen as cheerleaders.“Though we felt that was history for Leon, and especially for the students we represented, there was so much more work to be done,” Sermon said.Joseph Hatchett, the first African-American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court, detailed the laborious process in Florida for parents to make written requests to schools and petition the school boards for hearings, just to fulfill the promises of Brown. “I appeared in this courtroom my very first time, when I was a student at Florida A&M,” said Hatchett, telling how his professor required all political science majors to hear a case at the Florida Supreme Court. It was Hatchett’s opportunity to witness arguments in the case of Virgil Hawkins, a black man who had graduated from an unaccredited law school, because he was not allowed to attend the University of Florida, which meant he could not take the bar exam in Florida. Hawkins’ case was filed in 1949, five years before Brown, when the law was separate but equal.“There wasn’t a black law school in the state of Florida,” Hatchett said, “so there was nothing to be equal to, and yet his petition was denied.”Finally, a 69-year-old Hawkins was admitted to the Bar, and the Florida Supreme Court had a special ceremony reversing all of the court’s previous decisions.Again, the courtroom erupted in applause.“So, then, what did Brown bring us?” Hatchett asked. “It redefined race and education in our society. It eliminated all of the formal barriers to equal education opportunities. And it provided a quality education for all children, not just white children. The legacy of Brown is a society with a new set of cultural and educational values.“But we must not believe that the work of bringing equality to America is over. And when shall we begin? As we walk out the door!” Video clips from the Supreme Court’s ceremonial session celebrating Brown v. Board of Education can be seen on The Florida Bar’s Web site at www.flabar.org. A celebration and a challengelast_img read more