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UMB Gets A Lesson In Diversity

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“It’s easier to hate than to understand,” stated Mauricio Velásquez last Wednesday in an event co-sponsored by UMass Boston’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Division of Student Affairs.

Velásquez, president and CEO of the Virginia-based company Diversity Training Group, led a forum entitled “What You Don’t Know About Diversity.” He helped make participants aware of the prejudices they may carry into their interpersonal relations when they view individuals as members of a category such as ‘disabled’, ‘Buddhist’ or ‘woman’, instead of simply human beings.

He conducted an exercise to have students seek out people in the room with differences that weren’t visually apparent, like speaking another language, being a single parent, or having a friend who is part of the LGBTQ community.

Aside from its goal of encouraging people to interact with other groups, this icebreaker enabled participants to recognize that people may belong to more than one stereotype at one time. The participant could thus identify his or her own non-visually-cued prejudices. Those might, for example, involve language differences, right- or left-handedness, or even an expectation of differences between older and younger siblings.

Velásquez described the impact of prejudice in his own life, as a bilingual Hispanic-American man married to a woman outside his race. He had to overcome resistance from both his and his wife’s family over his marriage, as well as the issue of having biracial children. He encouraged people to become aware of their own bias, even as they work towards eliminating stereotypical thinking in others.

For more information about Mauricio Velásquez and the Diversity Training Group, please visit www.diversitydtg.com.