The first event of the Diversi-Tea series took place last Thursday in SU 315, attracting a strong, open-minded group of around 20 students, faculty, and community members.
Hosting by Marjorie Trueblood-Gamble, associate director of Student Life, Diversity and Inclusion, and D.L. Richardson, SOU senior instructor of journalism. Attendees were invited to enjoy tea and refreshments as they engaged in discussion about the role of comedy in matters of diversity, sexuality, and inclusion.
According to Trueblood-Gamble, the event was inspired by the questions that were raised by a film clip of the popular TV show “The Office,” which was shown in diversity trainings on campus. Trueblood-Gamble, a facilitator of the trainings, says that the clip raised questions about the role of comedy in diversity, and where the line should be drawn.
Although issues such as stereotyping and sexual harassment are often cast as comedy when shown in media, many people can be offended, as most of these issues have painful roots in real life. This raises the question of whether people are becoming desensitized to these issues, regarding them less seriously in the context of real life.
“When it comes to comedy and humor, intent does not equal impact,” said Trueblood-Gamble. “This event is for us to engage in perspective sharing.”
Clips from “The ‘N’ Word” and John Stossel’s “You Can’t Say That” sparked heartfelt discussion among audience members.
One concerned mother asked why her daughters felt it was okay to call each other derogatory names jokingly, while another woman expressed her concern about gender discrimination in the workplace.
A local teacher learned quickly that finding a comfortable medium of communication is challenging, while another encountered difficulty with stereotyping. In the end, however, the group decided the best way to deal with misunderstandings is to initiate an honest discussion when you feel uncomfortable with something.
“While we cannot control what other people do, we can control what comes out of our own mouths,” said Trueblood-Gamble.
It is a big step, she said, “just [admitting] that you hurt somebody’s feelings.”
Future diversity events will cover topics such as race in sports, multiethnic issues, and sexual objectification. On March 27, the film “Cracking the Codes-The System of Racial Inequality” will be shown in SU Diversions from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a discussion to follow.