Discrimination is not just a black and white issue. Among other things, it can be blue versus brown.
The Richmond County Human Relations Council (HRC) held diversity training on Feb. 14 at Sandhills Regional Medical Center in Hamlet that explored the dynamics of discrimination and the broad aspects of diversity.
The highlight of the training was a video entitled, “A Class Divided,” in which Jane Elliott, a third-grade teacher in an all-white town of Iowa, taught her students a daring lesson in discrimination by separating them by the color of their eyes.
On the first day of the experiment, she told children who had blue-colored eyes that they were better than children with brown eyes. And the next day, children with brown-colored eyes were told they were better.
The students’ shocking behavioral reactions were discussed after the video that led into participants’ sharing their personal experiences with discrimination during the training.
“The purpose of this training is to share some information and insight into the subject of diversity — to promote discussion and sharing,” said Dr. Masoud Ahdieh, an HRC charter member.
“We are not experts on diversity. We are all local volunteers with an interest in diversity,” he said, “This (training) is not the magic pill. We hope to start a dialogue that leads to positive action to improve relationships between various groups of people who make up this county.”
Diversity is the condition or quality of being different, said Dot Fisher-Bynum, HRC member who led the training. It’s more than language or ethnicity. It includes age, gender, socioeconomics, religion, education, disability, sexual preference, marital status and the list goes on.
“Diversity is about us. It’s about the way we treat each other. Diversity is about change. And however positive, change brings stress,” she said.
During an icebreaker, Keith Parsons, HRC member, asked each participant to choose from various diversity quotes provided and talk about what that quote meant to them.
Following the video, Kimberly Harrington, HRC member, led the participants into a discussion about discrimination. Macie McQueen, HRC president, said when she moved to Richmond County from Washington, D.C., she was discriminated against because she was from “up north.”
George Ferguson, a prospective HRC member who attended, concurred. He is from Guyana, South America, and has lived in Canada and said acceptance didn’t come easy when he moved here either.
Ahdieh, who is of the Baha’i faith, said as a child he was discriminated against by Muslim children because of his religion.
Bernice Broady, an HRC member, and Harrington, both African-Americans, said they were victims of discrimination by people within their own race. Harrington said growing up with “a dark-skinned complexion as opposed to lighter-skin” subjected her to ridicule.
Broady said she was victimized due to her professional development. A former banking employee, she excelled at her job and was promoted. Some of her African-American peers frowned upon her for that.
“This video was about differences period,” Ferguson said. “It wasn’t just about race — black and white.”
The purpose of this training is to identify problems in areas of all human relations and develop activities to promote solutions, McQueen said.
While our society is more integrated than it has ever been, there is still a need for more education, Parsons said.
The HRC is available to present this diversity training for employers, organizations, agencies or other groups who work with diverse populations.
For more information, call Dot Fisher-Bynum at 910-582-0848.
The HRC meets at noon on the second Thursday of each month in the private dining room of Sandhills Regional Medical Center.