MACON, Ga. — Crucial Conversations allow us to talk to a variety of people throughout Central Georgia about race relations.
In this conversation, Kayla Solomon talks to Dr. Ansley Booker, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Mercer University to find out why she thinks her job is important now more than ever.
Kayla Solomon: Do you have a breakdown of the demographics of Mercer?
Ansley Booker: "That would be something I'd like to pull to give you accurate numbers for the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. I know usually, on average, it's usually a 60/40 split with male and female, 60 percent female, 40 percent male. Usually it's about a 51 to 49 split, 51 being White or Caucasian, 49 being all the minority groups combined. But it's also very religiously diverse, I think there's 13 or 14 religions represented on campus even though we're Baptist affiliated."
Kayla Solomon: "What is the role that you have as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion?"
Ansley Booker: "A lot of what we do, especially from my position at my job, we're about training and educating individuals. So if there's a need for a training on bias, micro-aggressions, sexism, an inclusive workplace, any of those things, I handle that, my office tackles that. If there's a need for programming or curriculum development, so if we're looking at some different curriculum in some of our classes where we can tackle a lot more students at once because what we notice is you can affect more change at the root level going up the tree instead of coming from the top down."
Kayla Solomon: "How important is it to have someone in charge of coming up with these initiatives and making sure they're put in place?"
Ansley Booker: "I think again, just going off the sentiment that this is going to be a movement, it's not going to be a moment, so we don't want to lost the steam. We want to have all the valuable accomplices, allies, leaders, people that are still finding their way through the movement because again, everybody can do something. Not everyone is going to be an educator, and I want to say that from the standpoint of higher education, we have a lot of great professors on our campus that do a lot of the sociology work, they do a lot of activism in the community, and they actually reach out and they're teaching our students. They're teaching our community how to be more inclusive, how to embrace some of the differences that we have and realize that we can move forward together if we're all willing to take part in this movement."
Kayla Solomon: "What is your hope heading into the fall semester that these organizations will go ahead and have these tough conversations?"
Ansley Booker: "When communities are more inclusive, they perform better. Especially with businesses and workplaces, right? They have better outcomes, they are more productive, they yield better results, and I think Mercer University, Macon-Bibb County, is working very very hard to make sure we are more inclusive. Everyone is given a seat at the table, everyone is being represented, that we're having these courageous conversations, we're talking about racism, we're talking about injustice, we're talking about sexism, misogyny, all these things that used to be kind of closeted, we're actually addressing, because I think once you start to become aware of them, you can actually effectively lead change."
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