Students, faculty host diversity discussion

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Up on the third floor of Hughes-Trigg, the SMU community sparks up monthly conversation over pizza and a welcoming buzz in the series, Real Talk: Conversations Around Diversity.

The goal is to engage the SMU community to plug into provocative conversations and maybe walk away with a stronger understanding of the varying points of view, according to Steven Johnson, coordinator of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Monthly topics include everything from the media, arts or education to the more sensitive topics of race, religion and gender. This month’s topic: Who can say what? Can some people use a term that others can’t?

These “terms” at the center of discussion are not just terms, however. They are (often) derogatory names that refer to select groups of people regarding sexuality, nationality, ethnicity and race. While these racial and gender slurs hold demeaning and devaluing connotations historically, groups have reclaimed these words and in many cases have even turned them into terms of endearment among themselves.

Conversation lit up with personal experiences (both negative and positive), possible ramifications of “empowering’ these terms and even legal perspectives from SMU
Law professors.

In this short hour, the SMU community held fruitful discourse with other students, faculty and staff in a respectful, open forum. While no worlds were shifted, minds were opened and other views considered.

“I came in with one mind set. I know in my family, the n-word is used as a term of endearment,” said Celena Chambers, a sophomore and AARO leader at SMU. “But now I think ‘You know what? This is wrong. Maybe we shouldn’t do this.’”

“It’s about personal responsibility,” said Kimberly Elmazi, chair of the Student Senate Diversity Committee. “That personal responsibility extends to protecting others who may not be able to protect themselves.”

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