Being Comfortable in the Uncomfortable – Deborah Stroman on #BlackLivesMatter

Monday, February 22, 2016 | Swetha Vasu

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Dr. Deborah Stroman on “Being Comfortable in the Uncomfortable- #BlackLivesMatter” workshop.

There is the dark side of human nature – the one that succumbs to easy baits of preconceived notions, inveterate yet unverified beliefs, hurtful judgments, and many more. It is never easy to admit that weakness even at a conscience level, and needless to say, it is a herculean task to come out in public to discuss it. But, this very silence can lead to another generation of misinformed beliefs and ignorance. After all, what else can explain the existence of institutional racism- several centuries after the abolishment of slavery?

Deborah Stroman, a PhD professor of organizational behavior at UNC Chapel Hill and the Director of Sport Entrepreneurship at Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, examines and illuminates the laws, biases (such as “dangerous Blacks”), and systems that produce negative outcomes for men and women of color in this country. Providing the presentation “Being Comfortable in the Uncomfortable: Real Talk and Tools for Undoing Structural Racism” is a way for her to promote dialogue and further investigation to help heal the ills of America. It is a sensitive topic that she has chosen to handle, and thus, she begins her workshop with a disclaimer: “This is not personal. Do not take it so.”

Her arguments are based on a simple truth: “There is only one race – the human race; There is one religion – Love.” Why should one human be treated differently from another?

Deborah Stroman’s talk is intriguing – filled with examples and carefully chosen parallels to drive home a point. She deconstructs the game of Monopoly to explain a situation of unequal treatment:

“Let’s all play the game of Monopoly. I will divide you all into two groups. The first group will start the game and play. After considerable time, I will call the second group to join the game from where it stands then. How would the second group feel about playing?”

“Some of them would quit in frustration; others would prefer to be in jail rather than pay the rent; and, some others would beat these odds and emerge victorious. The second group would then cheer those few and rare winners to serve as an inspiration to move on in the game. But clearly, we all know why the second group has a poor outcome and why it is an unfair play for them, don’t we?”

The audience in rapt attention

The audience in rapt attention

Deborah Stroman is clear in what she wants: “As UNC Kenan-Flagler students, I want you all to lead – not just participate – from the front. When someone is subject to unequal or biased treatment on the grounds of ethnicity or color, I want you all to lend a strong voice against that. Be the pioneers of change,” she suggests.

At the end of it, this session makes you aware of what it is to experience and feel the lives of those who have for long been subject to injustice and inequality – both by law, and by the culture of the larger society.

To me, it is sessions like these that kindle the hope for change – a change in attitudes.

Thank you, Deborah. We heard you! #BlackLivesMatter!