Courageous Conversations: How to be an Ally to People of Color

Ana Park, Reporter

Intended to educate the California Lutheran University community on how to be an ally to people of color, a Courageous Conversations series event offered by the Center for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion, brought in over a dozen students in an intimate setting as the staff of the CCEI guided and encouraged discussions, and facilitated open dialogue among the attendees intended to create a safe space for people to express their opinions on Monday, Feb. 24.

Starting a few minutes after the forum on Cal Lutheran’s racial climate ended, the discussion began with comments on Shaun Harper’s points regarding the treatment of people of color on campus. CCEI intern Terehna Soriano said they wanted this event to be a debrief of the forum for those who wanted to discuss it. The event was intended to be a safe space for students’ free expression and attendees were asked not to record.

One of the first topics addressed was how Cal Lutheran can create and support safe spaces on campus where students can be themselves and feel safe from racism, judgement and other negative attitudes. One way to be an ally is to spread the word and support places including the CCEI and groups like the Black Student Union, Latin American Student Organization, Sisters’ Circle and others.

Other talking points included how this campus was built on land that originally belonged to the Chumash people, and how being a school based in one of the least ethnically-diverse religious denominations could affect minorities on this campus simply through institutional biases, both explicit or implicit. 

The idea of including more staff and faculty members that belong to minority groups to stimulate a strong, positive impact on minority students was also discussed and an attending student said Cal Lutheran should take that into account when hiring. 

Another attending student said allies can help the community by attending and engaging in relevant events like the racial climate forum hosted by Harper earlier that day, and others hosted by clubs on campus like the BSU. The student also said that even more important is encouraging others to engage and continue the discussion.

The attendees of this event were asked about what they had seen as effective allyship by those around them. One answer was that allies can better help by recognizing their own privilege, realizing what that privilege means and how they can use that to help people who do not have that privilege.

The event discussed how individuals can put themselves in someone else’s shoes to help realize that they will probably never fully understand their experience, but can recognize the strengths and drawbacks of their position, especially if they are of a different race or gender.

A student at the event said that simply having conversations with friends about hard subjects like racism can be an effective component of allyship too. Things like pushing past the usual comfort zone for discussions and talking about uncomfortable subjects, confronting people who are being racist or even recognizing implicit bias in oneself or one’s actions and working to change those is very important.

It was also mentioned during the conversation that certain staff and faculty reached out to some of their students after the recent events on campus to offer support and guidance if they wanted it.

According to their website, the Center for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion is meant to be “a space for students to engage, organize, socialize, and inquire about social justice issues and learn about identities beyond their own.” Their office is located on the upper floor of the Student Union across from the Center For Global Engagement. 

The next event in this series is “Being an Ally to LGBTQ+ Folks,” which will take place on Monday, March 23 from 6-7 p.m. in their office.