Having the difficult conversations
February 19, 2021
God bless my staff, I have signed them up for this for the rest of the year. But beginning the year, again it’s also as a Black female I think I was particularly propelled this summer to do more, to write more, write articles, to engage in panels, and I said “look it can’t just be people of color having this conversation in a void, right, we have to be doing it together.” So my staff each week, we have a staff meeting, the last twenty minutes dedicated to a topic of diversity. And so it’s not something that I always bring, it’s like whoever is up that we bring something, something that speaks to you about a marginalized community that is unrepresented that may go unnoticed to you, right. And so we’ve had people talking about people who have physical like ailments, I don’t know something that they can’t, they are handicapped and therefore on this campus would maybe be overlooked or unnoticed in some way.
We definitely have racial diversity, we had a talk about two men who were a part of the core community in the church and were like, I love this church but I’m struggling in it like and all of the things that we I think shy away from in having conversations with people, and in shying away and not having conversations to begin with as a leadership team what happens is those around know, “oh they’re not going to talk about this so I’m not going to bring this to them,” and so it ends up staying in and so I want us to be okay with sitting in discomfort because the people around us struggling are sitting in discomfort, and they want to be able to come to us with these things.
So I think it’s been really good to have weekly conversations and break things down, and I realize I brought in a piece about from Austin Channing Brown and Brené Brown talking about race and kind of like an image of a White God versus an image of a Black God, and how that’s so different and how the image of the White God and you know, again this is an ideal and under the image of this White God you know a lot of things in our country have been okay:, slavery has been okay, marginalization has been okay, and the image of this Black God is about justice, right, and people who are like God has to be with me in this struggle and if God is with me then God is a god of justice. And fighting for me to get that.
And I realized that the staff was a little hesitant to talk about it and kind of quiet and so after I talked with my AR and I was like okay that was weird, I just feel like people weren’t as talkative as normal, after all I am the only Black person on this staff, right? So it’s going to be different and new and she said, “Well I think people are just afraid of saying the wrong thing.” And I said that’s real and she goes you know Kayla, that’s not my God, and I said I hear you and I appreciate you saying that and I wish you would’ve said that in the moment because that’s something I wanted us to be able to disagree on right? Say the things that matter and as… they’re talking about an ideal, not necessarily a person, and I think we individually have a view of God that might shake the ideal but we’re talking about as a society how we work into different themes of God. And I said you know what, I want to make sure we’re able to have conversations that are hard.
Kayla August is the Rector of Lyons Hall at the University of Notre Dame.