Diversity Challenge Overview

Conference - October 25-26, 2019 - Boston College


~ Proposal Submission is now closed ~

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The Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture at Boston College invites you to join us for the Institute's 18th annual national conference in the suburbs of Boston, a city known for its struggles and efforts to address issues of racial and ethnic cultural diversity in U.S. society. The Institute was founded in 2000 at Boston College, under the direction of Dr. Janet E. Helms, to promote the assets and address the societal conflicts associated with race and culture in theory and research, mental health practice, education, business, and society at large. The Institute solicits, designs, and distributes effective interventions with a proactive, practical focus. Each year the Institute addresses a racial or cultural issue that could benefit from a pragmatic, scholarly, or grassroots focus through its Diversity Challenge conference.


Conference Focus  - Diversity Challenge 2019

Race, Culture, & WHMP: Survival, Resistance, and Healing in the Current Social Climate

There was a time in the US and worldwide when only the fulfillment of the needs of White (presumably) heterosexual males of privilege (WHMPs) mattered and a small group of them held all of the economic and sociopolitical power. To protect their illegitimate power, WHMPs developed laws and policies that supported neo-Nazis and Klansmen, “citizen” anti-immigrant border patrols, hate crimes, ideology, and violence against Black, Jewish, and LGBTQ+ communities. Violations of Indigenous people and their communities were rampant. As marginalized peoples and their allies began to assert that their lives mattered, it appeared that small steps toward redistribution of power might be occurring, until WHMP reasserted themselves. Now, in addition to the versions of oppression and disempowerment that worked before, WHMP appears in the form of White supremacists and Eurocentric policies banning immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, government kidnapping and imprisonment of Latinx children at the southern border, debasement of African countries, and enslavement of government workers. Moreover, continued attacks on the sacred lands of Indigenous peoples, the disappearance of Indigenous women, and harassment of Indigenous elders, mean the wounds from previous mass relocations and genocide cannot heal. Clearly in such a climate the physical and mental well-being of non-WHMPs are at risk.

This year’s Diversity Challenge focuses on identifying strategies for surviving, resisting, and healing from the rejuvenated hostile racial and cultural climate. Social media outlets, such as “Headspace” and “Calm Center” reveal that users are living with heightened fear, anxiety, and pessimism.  Educators are reporting higher rates of school violence, bullying and racism, and disengagement. Health care providers are reporting higher rates of negative mental health symptomatology, including general anxiety, depression, chronic fear, and trauma reactions among their service recipients. Thus, one goal of Diversity Challenge is to discover what strategies and interventions educators, health providers, and policymakers are using to survive themselves and to diminish the harmful effects of nationalism, racism, ethnoviolence, heterosexism, and classism on the people they serve across the lifespan.  

Nevertheless, not everyone is succumbing to feelings of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. History shows that Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, and LGBTQ+ communities find ways not only to survive hostile climates, but also to resist them and heal through spaces and practices that promote positive racial identity and cultural pride, such as religious rituals/organizations, community agencies, and the co-creation of art. Critical thinking, political activism, and resistance to internalized oppression have also been highlights of these groups individually and as communities. The availability of a multiplicity of resistance options often provides buffers against experiences of discrimination, systemic oppression, and the daily exhaustion of living in a WHMP dominant society. Organizing across artifactual group boundaries typically had led to the greatest social change, yet very little attention has been given to resistance efforts of individuals, interventions, or organizations in the mental health and educational fields. Thus, the second goal of this year’s Diversity Challenge is to increase awareness of resistance strategies and practices.

We envision an interdisciplinary forum in which researchers, mental health practitioners, social activists, educators, and government officials explore issues and interact with each other, to address mutual concerns related to race, ethnic culture, and surviving, resisting, and healing in our current political and social climate. We invite proposals from any discipline, modality, or persons with a relevant viewpoint. Potential areas of interest include: (a) mental, physical, and spiritual health at all levels of society; (b) educational opportunities and options for students and teachers; (c) community and national level activism; (d) cost-benefit analysis of activism; (e)  perspectives on organizing for community, country, or global action. Especially welcome are existing or proposed interventions that can be implemented at multiple levels (i.e., individual, community, and national).

Presentations should focus on developments in research, professional practice, education, community activities, or activism pertaining to race or ethnic culture and surviving, resisting, or healing in our current climate. Creative conceptual papers and models are encouraged. Our goal is to stimulate dialogue and action with respect to racial or ethnic cultural factors. Strongest consideration given to proposals that focus directly on the 2019 Diversity Challenge theme, “Race, Culture, and WHMP: Survival, Resistance, and Healing in the Current Social Climate.”

As a result of attending the conference, my thinking about the ways gender, race and ethnic identity develop among women and girls and its psychological outcomes has deepened in complexity and understanding.
Diversity Challenge participant