By Ashton Smith, Assistant Features Editor
Before the semester started, a faculty session was hosted for all of faculty at OBU; Dr. Walter R. Strickland II, assistant professor of systematic and contextual theology and assistant vice president for kingdom diversity, at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary talked over the topics of diversity and racial dialogue in the classroom.
He especially covered the topic as it relates to Christianity in particular, and how the faculty and students alike should become more aware of these particular issues. He gave a particular focus to how these topics impacted the gospel and how they should impact the faculty and teachers in return.
Dr. Daryl Green, the Dickinson Chair of Business professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, commented on Dr. Strickland’s thoughts and ideas he gave at the presentation.
“I think he made a case for diversity in terms of kingdom building,” Dr. Green said. “So we know that heaven is going to be much more diverse.”
The theme of ‘gospel focus’ was impactful to the faculty, due to the fact that OBU is an inherently Christian institution. Professor Scot Loyd, assistant professor of communication arts and debate, also commented on Dr. Strickland’s diversity presentation and how he brought the gospel into it.
“I appreciate the gospel foundation that Dr. Strickland prepared for the discussion of racial reconciliation at our institution and in our personal lives. A quote that I remember sums up the presentation in powerful terms, ‘The gospel heals the brokenness of Genesis three, as far as the curse is found,’” Loyd said.
“Often, we attempt (especially those in the white community) to relegate issues of race to a segmented portion of our lives. This, of course, is a luxury only afforded to white people living in a society that disproportionally favors ‘whiteness.’ But, as Dr. Strickland point out, this is a gospel issue.”
Along with this gospel-driven focus in the presentation, there was an emphasis on introducing diversity and racial dialogue in the classroom. By introducing these ideas of diversity and race into a classroom, more open conversations can be started.
“I’m seeking to lead with pointing to writers, scholars and examples of people of color who are contributing to my field and influencing my discipline,” Loyd said. “I’m also attempting to be proactive in being sensitive to those in my classroom who may express divergent perspectives from my own. I believe this creates a safe and welcoming environment for us to discuss these difficult and complex issues.”
Along with introducing these ideas in the classroom, there are also ways to encourage conversation outside of the classroom as well.
Different extracurriculars and clubs can introduce students to different people and cultures than they might be used to.
“This summer I took a group of five students, we went to Cape Town, South Africa… and so I’m going to be emphasizing the South Africa trip and Go Trips,” Green said. “I think if you grow up in a small area where everyone looks the same, acts the same, does the same thing, where they all go to the same church, something can be said to being taken outside of that safety net and being exposed to something different.”
By emphasizing these kinds of ideas inside and out of the school environments, faculty are beginning to influence students more into opening their horizons to different kinds of people and experiences.
“I want to encourage but I don’t want to dictate,” Green said. “So I think as faculty we can spur up discussion, but I would say from the student unions – SGA, and other student organizations – they have to be the ones that drive it up from the students standpoint… You have leaders, you have students that want to see some positive change in there, and I think you’re waking us up.”
Along with letting the students take the lead, it’s also important to guide and help those who want to learn to become more competent in the areas of diversity and racial dialogue.
“There are great resources in the form of books and films that are helpful,” Loyd said. “But mostly engaging and listening to our colleagues and students of color may be the best way to learn.”
Even though there are areas of conversation and learning to understand others that are respectful, there are also areas that may seem respectful to some but not to others.
“I think when you hear people say, ‘I don’t see color’ then as an African-American or a person of color, I kind of take offense to that, because God made me this way.” Dr. Green said.
By recognizing that people, no matter white color they are, have a soul and have feelings, is another step in the right direction.