A new Dubuque conference focused on the issues of race, equity, diversity and inclusion in the Midwest is planned for this fall.

“Race in the Heartland: The Past in the Present,” will be Friday-Saturday, Oct. 18-19, at Loras College.

To understand inclusion, you must first understand diversity.

Diversity is sub-groups who make up a larger group, organization, company, or even a country. We all are a part of the diversity make-up because we all fit within at least one sub-group. White, Hispanic, black, Asian and Marshallese are examples of race. Male and female are examples of gender, while Generation X, Y, and Z are all examples of age.

Any institution that claims to be diverse should have representation of different races, genders and ages along with many more sub-groups. Inclusion is how well these sub-groups are included or accepted within the larger group.

When the question is asked, “Why is the Race in the Heartland conference important?” the answer is simple. We as a society must be responsible for understanding our own bias and the biases of those before us, which have led us to develop some of the thought processes that we have.

Only then, when we are able to understand our biases, will we be able to create an equitable and inclusive future for all.

To go over every single issue that affects every sub-group, and then delve into the varying factors that contribute to those issues, would take more than the word limit for this piece. As such, Race in The Heartland will offer sessions that explore these complexities in further detail but even moreso, provide practical solutions for addressing those concerns.

One thing I would like to address now is the perception of key terms such as “diversity,” “equity,” “inclusion” and “race.”

Many people deflate when hearing these terms and do not comprehend how important it is to other groups of people.

I believe this to be because they associate these terms as not pertaining to them. I would like to assure them, they do.

When you mention inclusion to people who feel included, the negative connotation normally becomes misconstrued as “They are saying I’m not being inclusive,” and so they become offended and close off.

People often say race is a touchy subject, but why? When race is brought into the conversation, it often carries a stigma that it only refers to black people and that a white person is now being called out. This conference is not aimed to blame anyone for anything. Instead, we hope to provide individuals with the capability to handle these conversations and make environments (school, workplace, etc.) better so that we all — no matter who we are — have what we need in order to be successful.

That is equity.

None of these terms is exclusionary. If I say, “I was discriminated against because of my skin color,” and you did not know what I looked like, would you assume that I was a person of color? If I said, “I was discriminated against based on my gender,” and you did not know my sex, would you assume that I was a woman? Is that to say that a white person or a male cannot be discriminated against? Does it make one more

important or less important than another?

We invite you to explore these questions, and explore yourselves. Are you as welcoming and accepting as you think you are? Then come share your successes and stories and find out how you can be more accepting.

Jackson is the conference coordinator as well as a member of the Dubuque Human Rights Commission and vice president of the local NAACP.

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