Campus conversation combats hurtful slurs

Kyle Roerink

Students and faculty gathered last night to discuss diversity

The title of last night’s Campus Conversation was “A black, a Jew and an Arab walk into a bar … then what happens?” But the students and faculty who participated were not there to joke.

The open-discussion forum focused on how to teach the local, national and global community to come together as one race by advising students to courageously and appropriately teach people how to remove the veil of ignorance.

“We need to discuss the impact and the hurt that (slurs) cause to others when these terms are used, when these jokes are told and when these beliefs continue to be perpetuated,” said Tim Moore, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “(The slurs) add to the differences between us as opposed to those things that can help bring us all together as part of the human family.”

People who believe in using derogatory slurs and jokes did not attend the program, said Jennifer Chestnut, executive director of Hillel at Kent State. She asked the group if it had a collective responsibility to broaden the horizons of ignorant people who use means of antipathy to feel better about themselves.

“When someone makes a comment … do you have a shorthand thing you say to people?” Chestnut asked. “Whether it’s a classmate, friend or professor, what is our response, and if we each had a response prepared, would it be easier because you know what to say?”

Handling offensive situations requires a special formula, said Julio Pino, associate professor of history. He said resolving a problem dealing with hate-filled language depends on negotiating space – who you’re talking to, who you’re with and how to defend yourself.

Pino gave an example of when a young woman, standing alongside her mother, made a hurtful comment toward him about his ethnicity.

“If I would have responded the way I wanted to respond – with great anger – I would have offended her mother. I wasn’t about to do that,” Pino said. “So instead, I swallowed it, and to this day, I am sorry I swallowed it.

“I am not saying I should have gotten angry – that would have been the wrong response – I could have asked her why she would say something like that because she is not just insulting me, she is insulting my whole ethnic group. I wish I would have engaged her in conversation.”

Moore said the best way to evoke humanity from people who make malicious comments is to pull them aside and say “that hurt.” It may take courage, he said, but it is the only way for them to learn from their mistakes. If a person doesn’t say anything, he said, people will continue to do what they are doing.

“I believe a lot of problems come from parents,” said Coleman Lynn, junior sports management major and member of Phi Beta Sigma. “What (parents) believe in is what kids believe in.”

He said even if he were to tell someone their comments “hurt,” approaching them would not make a difference because people always return to their cultural morals and background.

In response to Lynn’s comment, Moore affirmed there is always a chance that confronting a person in attempt to make him or her more well-rounded could be an unforgettable experience on behalf of both parties.

“Students are very good examples of this,” Moore said. “The parents taught them certain things, but when they went to (Kent State) and they saw different types of people being friends and doing things they thought could never be done, they grow.

“If you make a mark with the child … the parent may still do it, but the child may grow in their ways and they may think back and say, ‘I got checked on what I was doing.'”

Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].