Psychologist encourages conversation about diversity

Michael C. Lewis

Friendship is the key to improving race relations in the United States, according to Kent State alumna and published psychologist Deborah L. Plummer.

More than 50 faculty and staff members listened to Plummer discuss a new commitment in leadership and the problems surrounding the open discussion about race and diversity.

“We don’t like to talk about race because it’s like a herd of elephants in America’s societal living room that we try to ignore,” Plummer said.

Americans are lazy, scared and insecure, she said. The laziness is due to a lack the skills to communicate across races, and the fear because they don’t like coming out of their comfort zones. She said insecurity is caused by doubt in individual goodness and a collective greatness.

Plummer asked, “Why don’t we like to talk about diversity?”

She said there is good news in diversity. In a 2004 Gallup poll, 77 percent of those surveyed indicated they rarely or never have unpleasant thoughts when encountering members of other races.

She credited the university for opening the doors to diversity.

“In 1980, I believed that racism could be eradicated if people just got to know one another,” Plummer said. “My years of living with all white people in a religious community taught me that if you lived long enough with anyone who was basically good and well-intentioned, eventually you would grow to tolerate them. And sometimes you might even grow to appreciate and love them.”

Junior magazine journalism major Leslie Schelat said the program made her think about race relations in a new way.

In her message to the students, Plummer encouraged them to explore their own relationships with diversity in the United States and the skills they have developed by talking and sharing information about their generation.

Plummer ended her speech by giving thanks and appreciation for those who talk about race and deal with it by bringing it out in the open, by facing their fears and overcoming them.

The event was sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center, a project of the Women’s Leadership Initiative and the Office of Campus Life.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Michael Lewis at [email protected].