A Dialogue on the Emotional Side of Race
Race is deeply emotional. It is a deep well of information. These were the focuses of the second Bend or Break: Diving Deeper dialogue which took place on Thursday, Mar. 2 at 8 p.m. in the Meier Hall Chapel. About thirty Andrews University students attended the event, including Lydia Levy (senior, secondary education) who said, “the event was well attended for a program that was held in the evening. I was surprised that so many people cleared their schedules for the forum”.
Following the recent administrative decision to start more conversations about race, Andrews University invited speakers Senekah Tennison, founder of Possibilities Network, and Rommel Johnson, founder of Eurisko Vocational Services, to present the emotional implications of racial identity and politics.
According to its website, “Possibilities Network is a training company that focuses on personal development and diversity education.” The company’s goal is to help participants to feel equipped when talking about race.
Tennison started the event with three main points: First, the concept of race was intentionally invented; second, the creation of races stripped people of their identities; and third, people do not always have all of the information when they talk about race.
As a follow up, Tennison presented three ways to have a conversation when talking about race: First, people should remember their manners; second, people can inform themselves, not just by educating themselves but by asking questions; and third, one should be emotionally present in situations to help identify your feelings. Tennison added that these three advisements are basic ways of communication that can be lost when talking about race.
Tennison then recalled a time when she felt hesitant to discuss race with other people. This hesitation went away after she began to understand the methods of how people make decisions. When most people make decisions, Tennison explained, they base them on logic. However, others make decisions based on their emotions, preconceived notions and subconscious biases.This is because people make emotional connections with what they learn.
Tennison closed off quoting the words of Jim Camp, founder of Camp Negotiation Institute (CNI) that said, “Even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.”
Johnson said that before race was conceptualized, people were identified by the country they were from. Carl Linnaeus in the 1700s came up with the racial categorization in order to make it easier to identify people: Caucasians were called the white race, Mongolians were the yellow race, Malays were brown, Ethiopians were black, and Native Americans were red.
Johnson also spoke on micro-aggression, internalization and perpetuation. Johnson presented different statements that seemed OK, but were actually not; such statements included: “I don’t see you as an Asian person,” “No, where are you really from?” and “You’re black but you don’t act black.” The issue here is that people grow up hearing these words and then they start to believe them. And then, Johnson noted, they perpetuate them.
Emily Gaskell (sophomore, business management) who attended the Bend or Break: Diving Deeper dialogue featuring Senekah Tennison and Rommel Johnson, said “It was a great approach to talk about the ‘race talk.’ The speakers were very open to everyone’s questions and listened to what everyone had to say. Sekenah used a great example to show how easily people can become prejudiced and how hard it is to battle it.”
Lawrencia Robinson (sophomore, spanish and global studies) added, “As a black woman growing up in today’s society, I’ve learned that microaggressions have affected my entire life. From now on, I will have to try harder to be more aware.”