Unity in diversity: a look into Convergence 2018

Rebecca Firstbrook, Graduate Assistant for Diversity and Inclusion 

Convergence is a conference that we host each year to discuss issues of diversity. We hope that the conference both educates students and staff while also prompting difficult conversations. We believe that this is part of being members of both a spiritual body and a learning community. Mark Charles, who is half-Navajo and half-Dutch, was the keynote speaker. His work centers on examining the Doctrine of Discovery, particularly how it contributed and justified the abuse and genocide of Native Americans. In addition, he focused on broader structural biases and how they impact the country today.  

In the morning session, Charles discussed the founding of the United States of America. He emphasized that history is always recorded by the victors, which often results in widespread ignorance about those who have been historically oppressed in our country. Here, he challenged attendants to consider the ‘forgotten history’ of oppressed peoples, particularly Native American tribes. Charles spoke about the inherent racism and sexism that exists within our founding documents including the Doctrine of Discovery, the Constitution, and the additional amendments. He highlighted that, because these documents include gender and racially-specific language, such injustices have been perpetuated in our country. He included quotes from leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Ruth Ginsberg which reveal the paradigm of white supremacy as it is perpetuated and supported by the founding documents.  

After the first keynote session, breakout sessions were offered on the topics of Colorism, Institutional Transformation, and Local Church and Community Development. Colorism sheds light on the issue of light skin tone preference and its global impacts. Institutional Transformation looks at Nyack College in New York City, which has increased its minority student population to become a minority-majority campus. In the Local Church and Community Development, presenters discussed how they foster community through children’s and environmental programs.  

In the afternoon session, Charles addressed the challenges of American nationalism and white identity in the midst of these conversations. He outlined the conflict of identity as Christians within a secular nation. Charles drew some convicting parallels between America’s history of religious and political conquest with other historical tragedies, closing with a framework of historical trauma. Historical trauma refers to an inherited form of PTSD that communities feel from past suffering. He uses an idea of perpetrator induced trauma, which is inherited by oppressors of an institutional hierarchy, to understand responses from majority white audiences.  

Charles closed with an appeal to millennials to rise up, represent a culture of plurality and diversity, and rally against historical oppression and institutional exploitation.  

 

Geneva College hosts the annual Convergence Symposium with the help of Diversity and Inclusion, Center for Student Engagement and the CCO. It was held on Saturday, Nov. 10, from 10am – 4pm in Skye Lounge.