Talking taboo topics opens dialogue

Whitney Cale

Staff Writer

Troy University is making an effort to break the barriers.

On Monday, Sept. 12, the office of student involvement hosted its first “Breaking the Barriers” discussion in the Trojan Center ballrooms.

According to an email sent out on Sept. 12 by Sadaris Williams, coordinator of student involvement and leadership, “this is a special opportunity for us to come together and ‘really’ get to know each other, share our personal stories around race and gain a deeper appreciation for our differences in spite of our racial, social, economic and cultural differences.”

“Breaking the Barriers” is a campaign created by one of Troy University’s very own.

“I was inspired by a race relations forum that I attended this summer,” said Destiny Oliver, a senior marketing major from Dothan. “I just had to put the inspiration into action.”

There were 22 people at the first meeting, including Jeff Bolger, director of Campus Outreach; Joseph McCall, senior lecturer of the history department; and Derrick Brewster, assistant dean of student services.

According to Oliver, race is one of the most “unpopular, uncomfortable” subjects for people to talk about. It is important to note, however, that race is not the only difficult conversational topic.

Race, religion and sexuality (or sexual matters in general) are all subjects that we, as a society, have agreed not to incorporate in our everyday conversations. This is probably a result of the adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

“We don’t want to shake up their reality,” Oliver said.

The reason we so often avoid talking about “controversial” topics can be summed up to one principle: fear. We don’t want to say anything that could come across as judgmental, condescending or hurtful. We are embarrassed to talk about certain subjects because society has taught us that it is awkward and unacceptable.

Williams believes the way to “dismantle harmful stereotypes” is by having “courageous conversations.”

It would be nice if we could one day reach a point where people of all races and cultures can have a “normal” conversation about any subject matter. Oliver believes this can be achieved through the campaign’s motto: “listen, learn, have empathy.”

All it takes is one — one student, one teacher, one person — to initiate a conversation by stepping out of a comfort zone. If we would set our ego aside for a moment and think about everyone who surrounds us and where he or she came from, we could start to break the barriers. It does not always have to be about defending or refuting. It is about respecting and appreciating.

“I like talking about these topics because God created color, race, cultures, etc.,” Oliver said. “We are all special in our way, so why should we be ashamed to talk about what makes us who we are?”

Williams declared his hope for Troy University: “Let’s come together to break the barriers that divide us.”

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