Art by Madeline Duvall
When some hear the words diversity training, they expect a seminar about racism, white flight and anti-racism biases, but diversity training shouldn’t be a mere overview of racism.
President Donald Trump’s executive order banned racial sensitivity training in federal workforces, saying it is un-American and discriminatory. Honestly, the president is misguided in his assessment of diversity training’s flaws, but he isn’t wrong that there is a problem with it. Currently, racial sensitivity and diversity training is ineffective and doesn’t demonstrate how to pinpoint implicit bias in a specific field and overcome it.
One issue with diversity training is that it doesn’t last. For many, it is an unmemorable yearly seminar. For real change to happen in any workplace or environment, diversity training has to be frequent.
This is also applicable to everyday learning, such as how individuals learn and react appropriately to societal norms. When people enjoy a show, they either clap and applaud or use more subtle clues such as staying quiet when people speak. As children, we learn these behaviors through repeated exposure and perhaps a gentle nudge from our parents. This aspect of learning behavior can be described as classical conditioning.
Diversity training is no different than classical conditioning. If there is no repeated exposure, then people won’t adapt and respond correctly to the situations regarding race.
Furthermore, diversity training can be too broad. For example, Pepperdine faculty and staff can voluntarily work in the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity program. The program holds multiple sessions throughout the year, which means the information is likely to stay in the minds of Pepperdine staff, but the content doesn’t focus on the specific issues at Seaver.
The SEED program is meant to enlighten various groups of people on white privilege, oppression and systems of power, but those teachings don’t apply to more specific situations such as inequity in the classroom. So while professors and faculty understand issues of white privilege and oppression, they aren’t actually learning to directly combat the issues they face on campus.
At a university, diversity training should address assumptions of student intelligence based on race, how to address racial groups and individual students, and how to make all students comfortable while acknowledging deeply ingrained biases. This spans all levels — not just professors or faculty but also administration and board members, who make decisions affecting everyone.
Effective diversity training is a necessity due to the varying ideologies, races and cultures in America and needs to be corrected at Pepperdine and across the nation. Putting more thought into training can be a simple fix. Organizations, schools and companies must implement mandatory, repetitive and specific diversity and racial sensitivity training that reflects the repeated racial issues that appear in the workplace.
Banning racial sensitivity training will not make institutions more equal and accepting. Instead, we must listen to those around us and be open to understanding the specific ways biases manifest so everyone can create better and more diverse environments.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Email Anitiz Muonagolu: firstname.lastname@example.org