Wilson’s Fourth Deliberative Dialogue Day Focused on Race

Warren Wilson College held its fourth deliberative dialogue on Jan. 29, 2021, focused on discussions pertaining to race in response to the Black Student Union demands of 2020. Students and faculty had the opportunity to attend dialogues on two of four topics: racism 101, cultural competency, implicit bias and reparations.

Tynesha McCullers, the interim Director of Wilson Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (WIDE), and Daleah Goodwin, professor of history and Director of DEI Initiatives, worked together to put on the dialogue. McCullers focused on training facilitators on how to lead these conversations while Goodwin focused on the logistics. 

For McCullers, facilitator training was important. She called in past co-workers and students from her work with the University of Maryland to help her engage volunteer facilitators in the process. 

“Facilitation skills are extremely necessary to give a talk or lead a dialogue, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just putting people in rooms without giving them a toolkit of things to use,” said McCullers. “I wanted to train folks on campus so that we could build capacity on campus.”

Langdon Martin, professor of chemistry, participated as a facilitator. According to Martin, he, along with other faculty and students, attended two days of intense training in preparation, and this role granted him the opportunity to push himself and do more of this work. 

“I want to be a better facilitator and to be better at conversations about race, particularly with other white people,” said Martin.

Reid Carpenter, a junior biochemistry major and a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) leadership, also participated in a facilitation role. 

“It feels important to me that we have dialogues like this around race and racism, and to me that feels like a responsibility as I continue to be educated by people of color that I work with and spend time with,” said Carpenter. “It feels like a really big opportunity to take part in all of the training and organizational work.” 

While the event drew in a crowd of almost 300 people, Goodwin acknowledged that this was just a start to having conversations around race on campus. 

“Is it over? Is it perfect? … no. There are so many more moments that we need to have for conversation and understanding around these and other topics,” said Goodwin. 

Overall, the event engaged a variety of participants on campus, lending a space for growth and the development of broader understandings around these topics. However, many agree that the event only scratched the surface in terms of community understanding and learning.

“I don’t know if the day, specifically, is enough. It should be a continuous process that doesn’t just stop,” said McCullers. “I think that dialogue — whether it’s happening once a month or biweekly or something — it should be continuous because the process of learning and engaging is not just a one time thing. I worry that having something like deliberative dialogue ‘day’ is detrimental because it doesn’t feel like there is a commitment to doing the ‘work,’ which is for racial justice.”