Strickland leads diversity forum

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.

 

Focus Week tackles difficult topics in messages on racial reconciliation

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor  (Courtesy Photo/okbu.edu)

Many outsiders would believe that on a small, private Christian campus like that of OBU, censorship is king, divisive issues get swept under the rug and silence is golden.
Over the course of Focus Week, two men and a book blew that assumption
away.
Dr. Jarvis Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, and Dr. Kevin Jones, associate dean of academic innovation and assistant professor of teacher education at Boyce College, brought up quite a few hot-button issues during their combined week on campus; they discussed things from sexual purity to xenophobia. Their main focus, however, was racial reconciliation within the church.

According to Dale Griffin, assistant vice president for spiritual life and dean of the chapel, messages like this aren’t typical for Focus Week.

“Typically, every year Focus Week is a time for us to talk about renewal in our devotion to Christ. Typically we’re talking about quiet time and our personal walk with Christ. That’s been the history for Focus Week for decades,” he said. “But this year, we chose a very important focus for our week, and that is racial reconciliation.”

Jones and Williams were the perfect fit for this conversation, not only for their experience with the issue as African American men, but for the time and research put into their book, “Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives,” published in June of 2017.

While the title may seem daunting, Dean Griffin encourages students and faculty to give the book a try.

“Before you judge the book too quickly, I encourage you to read it,” he said. “It’s a powerful, powerful piece.”

To start out the week, Willams preached on Galatians 5:13-15, reminding audiences that the Bible demands an active love.

“The Bible defines love as sacrificial action on behalf of another,” he said. “If you are a Christian, Christ freed us from bondage to be slaves of love.”

Williams said he believes that this love in action includes dealing with racism head-on in our daily lives.

“Love for one another in the body of Christ means that we fight against racism anywhere it raises its ugly head,” he said.

Throughout the week, William harkened back to the gospel call for Christians to join in the fight.

“This is not a black issue. This is not a brown issue. This is not a white issue,” he said. “This is a gospel issue.”

In addressing the issue of white supremacy, one point that often requires clarification is its definition. For many, white supremacy seems to be about burning crosses, events like the attack on anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville and other overt acts of racism.

“White supremacy is not just Charlottesville, folks,” Williams said. “White supremacy is also believing the lie that black and brown people are only slaves in your history.”

As an educator and father, Jones has seen a lack of education in African American history as a major contributing factor to racism and white supremacy in institutions.

“I go through my K through 12 education and I have to read… about history that totally excludes African Americans except for the little bit where they talk about slavery,” he
said. “It wasn’t until I stepped on the grounds of Kentucky State University, a historically black college, that I realized how many African American scholars there were.”

With children both in public school and homeschooling, Jones sees this ignorance across the board.

“We sit in these home-school circles… and I get to listen to the curriculum… and I get to write back to the publishers and say, ‘Where are the black and brown faces?’ And typically they know of no black and brown faces because they’ve been miseducated,” he said.

This lack of education, according to Jones, not only affects the way people view African Americans, but also gives way to the opinion that racism and white supremacy don’t exist in today’s culture.

“The miseducation is that you don’t know enough about all the people made in the image of God, and until we learn all there is to know, or at least a little bit more, we need to be very careful what we say does exist and does not exist,” he said.

Part of learning more, Jones and Williams believe, is providing a space in which people can learn safely. In his chapel message, Williams told African Americans specifically how to help their white peers along in their journey.

“We allow space for our white brothers and sisters who want to lean into this…to make innocent mistakes when they don’t know what to say,” he said.

Jones said he sees a safe space as a necessity in learning to deal with racially driven issues.

“We ought to seek to be a helpful space where we can love one another and we can help one another walk through what it means for race reconciliation, ” said Jones.

 

Jarvis Williams_1.JPG
Photo by Jonathan Soder/The Bison

 

A version of that space was available to students twice throughout the week as Jones and Williams each led a forum and Q & A for students and faculty. These forums allowed Williams and Jones to speak more extensively on their specializations within the issues as well as providing a platform for students to ask real questions.

One student asked whether it was possible for African Americans to be racist toward white people, while another, a future educator concerned about low graduation rates among African American boys, asked how she could best take care of her students.

These questions did not come with easy answers, and both speakers took time after the formal sessions to talk with students one on one. One point Jones and Williams made
sure to emphasize, however, was that no matter how much work is done, reconciliation doesn’t come through the efforts of man.

“Reconciliation comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ,” Jones said.

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
Galatians 5:13-15