The conversation of diversity and inclusion is becoming an essential piece of the Vanguard community. As the conversation grows, white students have found it tough and awkward to navigate diversity and inclusion, according to the Advocacy Lead for Intercultural Student Programming, sophomore Hope Hurst.
“I’ve heard [from several white students] white guilt and lack of knowing white identity and things like that lead to a disconnect about the diversity conversation,” Hurst said.
Peacemaking in America is a group that is setting out to rewrite the narrative, to invite and create a space for students to learn, grow, and be honest about their struggles with diversity.
“Peacemaking in America is a cohort of students who are passionate about issues of justice and equity, and who want to live out Jesus’ call to be peacemakers and ministers of reconciliation. This cohort is designed to help white students unpack their own cultural identity as well as empower them to be advocates and allies for racial reconciliation on Vanguard University’s campus and beyond,” said Lindsay Dumas, administrative assistant of the Office of Student Engagement.
In the fall of 2016, Lindsay Dumas and Assistant Director of Intercultural Programs Aizaiah Yong began having conversations about how to best serve and assess white students in the conversation of racial reconciliation, diversity, and faith at Vanguard.
These conversations led to the implementation of the group called Peacemakers in America.
The group met for the first time in Spring 2017 and consisted of 6 white students from different departments and backgrounds. Each student was selected based on referral from professional staff that felt these students wanted to learn more about diversity and their role in the conversation, according to Dumas.
“I think it’s a much-needed space they are creating for white students to learn about themselves and how to navigate and be empowered to engage and continue the diversity conversation,” senior Madison Pierce said.
Meetings cover topics from white privilege, intersectionality of race, class, and gender, colorblindness, and how this conversation mirrors the way of Jesus teachings.
“Like all of the cultural clubs [El Puente, BSU, APIC, The Mix] this will be a club that allows students to understand their own identity, backgrounds, and allow students to have inward reflection on internalized bias and prejudice,” Yong said.
The 2018 – 2019 school year will see broader invitation to students with an actual student leader taking the helm of Peacemakers in America.
“None of our clubs are exclusive to any one group but they do have specific focuses on certain experiences that we want to dive deeper into,” Yong said.
The racial demographic of Vanguard is changing and with each new semester is becoming more racially diverse as this happens Vanguard is continuing to make the steps to grow. The aim of Peacemakers in America is to create space for all to thrive, said Yong and Dumas.
“My biggest hope of having this group is to bridge the gap between students of color and white students,” Dumas said.
Yong envisions to further unification on a diverse campus through the addition of this club.
“This is about giving people a clear pathway for these tough conversations. In order to have real unity on campus we have to invite all voices and all experiences to the table… to co-create a community here,” Yong said.