time to face facts
Instructor uses humor, personal experience
to break the ice
by Andrew Shurtleff
police routinely patrol the Grounds in cars, on bike and on
foot. Here, pedestrians and motorists cross the intersection
of Ivy and Alderman roads.
By Matt Kelly
Birdine showed the University
Police the humor of diversity.
44, president and chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based
Affirmations in Action, used jokes, exaggeration and personal
history, coupled with exercises and discussions, to present diversity
in a nonthreatening way on March 4-5 at the Darden School. He
used the make-up of each group black, white, Asian, men,
women, young and old to show the different levels on which
people relate. Men, both black and white, may share some common
emotions about women, or they may follow the same sports teams.
has nothing to do with niceness, Birdine told his audience.
If you leave the house looking to be offended, then you
will be offended. And if you live your life afraid of offending
other people, then you arent going to please anybody.
look at the world through what is familiar to them and stereotypes,
he said. And being fearful of offending reduces communication.
you dont see my color, you dont see me, Birdine
told the officers. Ive been places where I am the
only black guy in a room full of white people, somebody comes
looking for me, theyre scared to say, Hes the
black guy. We are scared to talk to each other. We need
an open and honest conversation.
professional diversity educator and motivational speaker, Birdine
said he wants people to be better at their jobs, and humor helps
relaxes them, opens them to sharing, lets them know its
OK to disagree, he said. We wont agree on everything,
but we can disagree without being disagreeable.
led the group of about 20 officers and staff on a series of exercises,
including listing stereotypes of various groups, a diversity quiz
and dividing the officers into groups to determine who, from a
preselected list, should survive a nuclear war. From a list of
15 men and women of different races, ages, skills and religions,
the officers had to select seven survivors and explain their reasons.
objective is to have people more sensitive than they would otherwise
be, said Police Chief Paul Norris, who had worked with Birdine
at Indiana University, where Norris had also been police chief.
It is not to have everybody agree, but just be more sensitive
to the way the other person thinks.
talk was the opening round of what Norris sees as ongoing diversity
training for his department, using University people for future
sessions. About 60 police officers and staff attended one of three
sessions Birdine held.
were some people who didnt want to be here, Norris
said of his officers. But as they were walking out, they
were saying that it was excellent.
said working with the different people rejuvenates his
enjoy the interaction, he said. Some people are genuinely
altered, others survive it.