UMD staff share experiences of confronting racial issues

The embraceRace@UMD Steering Committee answers questions from the audience. (Isaiah Smith/The Black Explosion)

The embraceRace@UMD Steering Committee answers questions from the audience. (Isaiah Smith/The Black Explosion)

Members of the embraceRace@UMD Steering Committee on Tuesday discussed their experiences trying to confront racial inequality at the University of Maryland.

The group’s mission is to provide a space for campus faculty and staff to openly explore and confront the problem of race and how racism is present daily.

Sika Wheeler, a founding committee member and LGBT Equity Center coordinator on campus, opened the team’s fifth session of the semester, “Strategies for Challenging Racism & Pursuing Equity,” by identifying a few of the challenges of race that not only occur on campus, but in society as a whole.

“Sometimes we make race really complicated,” Wheeler said. “People love the idea of equality, but some don’t do anything concrete to actually make it happen or put their racial differences aside.”

Instead of lecturing the entirety of the event to faculty members, the team dedicated a portion of that time to allow themselves to open up about personal experiences and struggles while being apart of the embraceRace@UMD team.

“We started this because we wanted to do something different,” said Donté McGuire, a UMD diversity and inclusion trainer and consultant. “The conversation about race always begins with white people. We don’t discover enough diversity on this campus.”

The committee has seven members, of whom four are white and three are African American. Kalia Patricio, an assistant director for human resources at the Stamp Student Union building, opened up about her struggles with being one of the white members.

“The challenge I face now is how I have to view everything around me,” Patricio said. “I’ve been apart of the system that didn’t have to worry about that.”

“Sometimes this is really exhausting for the soul,” Wheeler continued. “It feels like race is a topic that everyone should be educated, but we still see the same issues today. I’m not even sure why we have to keep discussing race.”

The session concluded with a few members sharing what keeps them motivated to be apart of the team and not give up.

Leslie Krafft, a manager at the Department of Resident Life on campus, is another white member. She told the audience that the chance to learn and grow as a person while working with people who are different from her is what makes her stay.

“I’ve had more opportunities to learn about topics I haven’t learned about before,” said Krafft. “This takes a lot of time, dedication and disagreement, but it’s all worth it.”

The final session for the embraceRace@UMD committee will run on April 23 at the Edward Saint John Learning and Teaching Center from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Faculty and staff are encouraged to attend.