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March 9th, 2009

I had a most surreal start to my day today. Highlighting some convergence of events for context:

  • Today was the first work day of Daylight Saving Time.

  • My dad's health has been declining since early Fall of last year. His issues include: failing kidneys, congestive heart failure (recently diagnosed), and prostate cancer (currently under control), and his stroke this Friday.

  • I got to bed at 10:00 last night.
My alarm was set for 6:00, but I awoke at 5:30 and not being able to get back to sleep, I got up at 5:45. To that end, I was at the bus stop for the 6:25 bus, and it was still dark out.

Needless to say, this is the earliest I've ever caught the bus since I started riding it in mid-September. There was a whole different group of folks on at this hour, and these are some of the thoughts I had about them:

  • After looking at several riders and noticing that most of them had some kind of uniform on, or a name tag of some sort, and one a logo as explicit as A McDonald's golden arch, I thought, "These are the people in the service industry who get up early every morning to get us going with coffee and sometimes feed us."

  • "Most of these people know each other."

  • "They sure are talkative for this hour of the morning." (I am not a morning person.)
I've never gotten to my office before 7:30, so it was somewhat eerie this morning with it not yet being light; the main, front door not yet unlocked, so having to use my proximity badge to unlock the door; the security guard not yet at his desk in the lobby, and not a soul in the building.

I took the elevator up to my floor and the door opened surprising both myself and the housekeeping lady, Brenda (whom I really don't know very well at all), as she stood just outside the elevator. As I walked out, she said to me with somewhat of a blank stare:

       "My sister just called me to tell me that my daddy has passed..."

       "Failed kidneys..."

       "He was 94..."

she said slowly, like checking off a list.

I related that I'd just returned from visiting my dad, who also has failing kidneys, among other issues, and just had a stroke on Friday. "It's hard watching your parents age," I said.

And she replied, "Yes, but you have to be strong for them."

I stepped toward her and hugged her. "I'm sorry for your loss," I said.

And we both went our ways in the yet-dark, deserted morning...



I had quite the productive work morning, and I walked down to Subway for lunch.



We had our first "All-Hands" or "All-Staff" meeting from 1:30-3:30. NCSU got a new (first ever) CIO last September, and this is the first meeting he has called for everyone who works under him, which is approximately 300 people. We don't have a conference room big enough in any of the buildings occupied by this organization, so our meeting was held over in the College of Textiles on Centennial Campus.

He went over a Strategic Operations Plan that has been developed since his arrival—a document that contains our vision, mission, and goals, along with four strategic projects that our organization is working on. I "tweeted" the meeting. Most of my tweets are here, with the exception of four or five at the very beginning, which I tweeted from @nematome before realizing I should have been tweeting from @ncsu_oit.



Tonight was the first of a five-week (once a week, for two hours each week) group that I've signed up for called, "Study Circles." The topics for the five weeks are as follows:

  1. Race relations and racism: experiences, perceptions, and beliefs

  2. Dealing with race: What is the nature of the problem?

  3. What should we do to make progress on race relations?

  4. What kinds of public policies will help us deal with race relations?

  5. How can we move from words to action in our community?

There are five participants in our group, plus two facilitators. The first thing we did was to introduce ourselves by saying: our name, where we worked or in what college or major we were in, and what are hopes and concerns were about being in this study circle.

I articulated my hope as: "I'm interested in the group's thoughts and insights into the comparison between the civil rights struggle of African Americans versus the civil rights struggle of Gay & Lesbian people." I expressed a concern that this group might only be for exploration of race and ethnicity, not necessarily including other cultural considerations such as sexual orientation.

Next on the agenda was for each of us to identify where we thought we stood, in general, on this "diversity awareness spectrum":


Naive Offender

Scores vary widely, because naive people are not aware of biases and prejudices nor of their impact. They can be unaware of pain and damage they cause.

Perpetuator

Perpetuators are aware of biases and prejudices but continue behaviors that reinforce and award bigotry.
Avoider

Avoiders (silent supporters) are aware of biases but tolerate unjust behaviors.
Change Agent

Change agents take action when appropriate and help to bring about long-range change.
Fighter

Fighters attack real and imagined prejudice. They look out for discrimination and bring about change but often pay a high price.

After that, we went around the room and shared our stories about our racial or ethnic backgrounds answering these questions, or some portion of them:

  • Tell a story or give an example to show how your background or experiences have affected your ideas about racism and other ethnic groups. When did you first realize that people come from different racial or ethnic backgrounds? What is your first memory of that?

  • Have you experienced racism or discrimination? Have you seen it? How has it affected you or people you know?

  • What should we do to make progress on race relations?

  • How do you think people see racism today? Compare your views with your parents' beliefs about different racial or ethnic groups. How are they the same? How do they differ?

  • You may have heard family members, friends, co-workers, or neighbors make prejudiced remarks. How do you think they learned their prejudice? How do you feel when you hear people talk this way? How do you react?

We had some very good discussion among the very diverse group that we have. In addition to my perspective as a gay person, we have one white lady who is married to a Hispanic man, one white lady who is married to a Korean man, a first-year student who is of Middle Eastern descent, a white lady from the North (not that that's a race or ethnicity!), one facilitator who is African American, and one facilitator who is Asian and married to a white man.

We ended the meeting making note of: 1) some knowledge that we gained, 2) some reflection of what we heard and how it made us feel, and 3) some potential actions we might take as a result of our experience.

Everyone was in agreement that we have an environment in which we feel safe to be open and honest, as it's a small group with whom everyone feels comfortable and trusting of everyone else. One of the facilitators said, after observing our first two hours together tonight, "This is going to be a good group. I can tell already."

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