Tackling the “R” Word

 

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A new course was added to the communication department this semester that some may consider out of bounds.COMM 450 – Special Topics: Interracial Communication tackles issues many people are still uncomfortable facing head on. “The ‘R’ word (meaning race) is almost considered a taboo topic” Dr. Mittie Carey explained.

Because talking about race often makes people uncomfortable, it was important to Dr. Carey to set up an atmosphere of trust for her students. At the start of the semester, she conducted many ice breakers and interactive activities to make students feel free to express beliefs as equals and without fear of judgment. Most class periods are spent in circles allowing for open discussion to take place. The class often participates in fish bowl discussions, where two people begin a conversation in the middle of a circle so that everyone is observing, just like fish in a bowl. Eventually other students also move into the “bowl” to contribute to the discussion.

Dr. Carey felt it was important to construct COMM 400 in a way that prepared students to work and thrive in an interracial society and to communicate across all racial lines.This new course begins with the history of race and moves onto cover interracial relationships  in corporations, romantic relationships, and friendships. Students are encouraged to form their own opinions without worrying if their grades will be affected negatively.

Traditionally, race is not something that is openly talked about, but this course shows that it should be. As Dr. Carey pointed out, “We are all different and there is nothing wrong with those differences. I’m black, you are white.My hair is curly, yours is straight. Since there is nothing wrong with these differences, we should feel comfortable talking about them.”

So far, the feedback for Interracial Communication has been very positive. Dr. Carey wishes that more students of all races would take the course. It provides exposure and opportunity to hear the words of others with different experiences. Students are given the chance to voice their opinions and examine themselves and what they believe. As a class, they discuss why cultural and racial groups view things differently, and how perception isn’t always reality. This course allows for an open opportunity for transformative discussion that will hopefully be followed by transformational perspectives and ideas.

~Brittany Bray, Student

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