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DSU campus and community discuss race, stereotypes and more during panel

Dickinson State University hosted its third event in a series of Courageous Conversations Wednesday evening on diversity. Panelists started the discussion by sharing what diversity means to them and how their experiences have shaped their views. ...

Perzen Polishwalla shares with the audience her views on diversity during a diversity panel on the Dickinson State University campus on Wednesday evening. (press Photo by Kalsey Stults)
Perzen Polishwalla shares with the audience her views on diversity during a diversity panel on the Dickinson State University campus on Wednesday evening. (press Photo by Kalsey Stults)

Dickinson State University hosted its third event in a series of Courageous Conversations Wednesday evening on diversity.

Panelists started the discussion by sharing what diversity means to them and how their experiences have shaped their views.

Football player Rob Sterling, football coach Pete Stanton, Dickinson Police Capt. David Wilkie, Dean of Elementary Education Courtney Williams and Director of International Programs Perzen Polishwalla led the discussion on what diversity means to them.

"I feel like this forum that we are having right now, this panel, is something that can help us out in the long run," said Sterling, senior cornerback for the BlueHawks. "Having these issues brought up is a positive thing. This is something we should be looking forward to, having people coming together to understand."

Faculty, staff and community members were invited to the event and were involved in the discussion.

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Polishwalla said she deals with diverse students everyday on campus, but that it's one thing to be different and another thing to be inclusive.

"I think the day we stop looking at people like 'Oh you are a black man, and you are a white man, or you are from this country or that country,' that's when we know we have made some progress," she told the audience.

Polishwalla shared with the audience the comments a resident made when she learned that there would be students from Pakistan enrolled at DSU this year. She said that the woman told her that she was scared, which made Polishwalla sad because the lady had never met those students.

Racism and stereotyping was a major part of the discussion at the diversity event.

Williams has six children and has dealt with racism toward her adopted children.

"I am a mom to six, three of them are black. We adopted two from Ethiopia and one from Congo," she said. "I am a mom to boys who come home crying very often from different things in our community. Last year my oldest son was being called the 'n-word' on his track team over and over again even though he asked them many times to stop."

Williams said that her mission is to embrace and celebrate the differences of her children and to eliminate the idea of being color blind.

"Our biggest mission now as parents, adoptive parents, to black children is that there is no such thing as color blind," she said. "We need to as parents train our kids to understand the differences in colors and how unique and special each is."

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Stanton said being a coach to a diverse group of student athletes is about understanding and supporting each other.

"We try to have a diverse group of guys become a family," Stanton said. "Not only to do things together but to be accountable to each other."

He said while the team is diverse, so is the coaching staff.

"We have three African American coaches on our staff," he said. "We have five white coaches on our staff, and we get along very well as a staff. We stay together as a family."

Wilkie said that while there is a culture of Americans not trusting the police, the Dickinson Police Department works hard to match the community it serves.

"Our philosophy at the Dickinson Police Department has always been we are looking for the person that fits our community and fits our culture that we are trying to develop," he said. "Which is a culture of understanding, a culture of diversity, of racial understanding and of just home-grown people."

Sterling reminded the crowd that change is the only way to keep the revolving door of hate from continuing.

"Racism is something that is taught, it's not something that you just wake up with," he said. "The big thing is love. Love conquers all. If we can't love one another, if we can't try to put that foot forward to try to be a better person, it's going to be the same issues over and over."

Related Topics: DICKINSON STATE UNIVERSITY
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