Illinois Association for Cultural Diversity

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16th Dealing with Difference Institute
Tuesday, May 19 - Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Spoon River College, Macomb, IL

Western Illinois University’s 16th Dealing with Difference Institute (DWDI) was held Tuesday and Wednesday, May 19 and 20 and focused on the longstanding but inaccurate notions of race which persist in our society even though these notions are being undercut regularly through the research being done in an increasing number of disciplines.

During the institute P-12 as well as college and university educators were invited to explore race from the perspectives of political science and social ethics, media representation, anthropology, genetics, and brain research and to discuss new internet resources that can lead to our own and our students’ greater understanding of the concept and its implications.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University--Long Beach, opened the DWDI with the presentation, “Uprooting Racism, Rethinking Multiculturalism: Toward an Ethics of Sharing.” Professor Karenga, a major figure in African American political and intellectual culture since the 1960s, has proven to be a powerful, insightful, and challenging presenter. In addition to his many scholarly publications on Africana ethics and sacred wisdom, he has written Introduction to Black Studies and Kawanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, based on the pan-African cultural holiday Kawanzaa which he created.

Dr. Sut Jhally, professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, made two multimedia presentations: “Race and the American Dream in the Age of Obama” and “The Joyless Economy: Happiness, Satisfaction and the Market.” Professor Jhally, a well respected and energetic teacher and lecturer, is the founder of the Media Education Foundation and the producer and director of many videos and DVDs, including Dreamworlds: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video and Advertising and the End of the World. His latest book is titled The Spectacle of Accumulation: Essays in Culture, Media, & Politics.

Dr. Ripan Malhi and Dr. Charles Roseman, both professors in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, discussed “Human Biological Diversity, History, and the Concept of Race.” Drawing from their research in genetics, they will show that race is not a product of the distribution of biological similarities and differences that we see among humans, but a product of social and historical factors. "A clearer understanding of race and human biological diversity," they will suggest, "requires both an understanding of the evolution of humans as a species and world history.

Other presentations focused on: how our brains develop answers about others before we know the right questions; the role of critical thinking in analyzing and modifying unconscious judgments; and new internet resources for exploring issues of race in our classrooms.

In the final session, "Learning to See Humans First: Ideas on Reducing 'Otherness,'" Dr. J.Q. Adams, WIU Professor of Educational and Interdisciplinary Studies, synthesized the multiple components of the institute and add his own understanding of how we can integrate accurate information about our common identity as human beings into our interaction with our students, colleagues, and communities.

All of the institute presentations and panels took place in the auditorium of Spoon River College at 208 South Johnson Street in Macomb.

Questions about the institute can be addressed to J.Q. Adams (jq-adams@wiu.edu / 309-298-3698) or Janice R. Welsch (jr-welsch@wiu.edu / 309-298-2057), the DWDI coordinators.

The DWDI is a major part of WIU's Expanding Cultural Diversity Project. WIU's Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research is a co-sponsor for 2009.