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  • View the Voices of Diversity: Race and Ethnicity video showing Social Work faculty sharing perspectives and experiences related to race and ethnicity.
  • Reflect on the video, identifying ideas, experiences, or statements that resonate with you, as well as strategies that were described.


Analyze what you learned from the Voices of Diversity video regarding perspectives and experiences related to race and ethnicity. Specifically:

  • What idea, experience, or statement resonated with you the most, and why?
  • What is one strategy described in the video that you will apply toward your self-awareness and/or cultural competence? How might this strategy help when working with a client who is racially or ethnically different from you?

Voices of Diversity: Race and Ethnicity

© 2021 Walden University, LLC 1

Voices of Diversity: Race and Ethnicity
Program Transcript

KATHY PURNELL: Welcome to the Voices of Diversity. We’ve built a series of short

conversations into the course to model and encourage meaningful conversations

around what some might consider difficult or sensitive topics. I’m Dr. Kathy Goodridge

Purnell, the program coordinator for inclusive teaching and learning, and the diversity

subject matter expert and social work educator who helped to develop this new diversity

course for the Barbara Solomon School of Social Work here at Walden University.

Today we’re here with social work faculty to discuss a few questions, which is part of

our Voices of Diversity series.

EMMETT ROBERTS, JR: Hi. I’m Dr. Emmett Roberts. I am a core faculty member at

the Barbara Solomon School of Social Work, and I’ve been a Walden faculty member

since 2013.

LEIGH HICKS: Hello. I’m Dr. Leigh Hicks. I am a core faculty also at the Barbara

Solomon School of Social Work, and I’ve been here since 2018.

EARL BRADFORD SMITH: Hello, everyone. Dr. Earl Bradford Smith, contributing

faculty. And I’ve been with Walden University since 2018.

KATHY PURNELL: We’re here to talk about race and ethnicity. We know those two

words have created a firestorm for hundreds, if not thousands of years. So the first

question is, the discomfort around race and ethnicity can often be difficult for some to

discuss or even understand. Why is this? And why is this not as difficult for others?

LEIGH HICKS: I believe that it brings conflict to some, but when you have a purpose, it’s

one of those things where you understand that your purpose is bigger than the

personalities that surround you. And so that makes it more effective to talk about those


EMMETT ROBERTS, JR: I think it’s an issue of power. And so those who have power

want to control the narrative and those who don’t have power want to talk about the

impact of those who have power. And so it can be a very contentious conversation topic

because some people say, well you’re saying that I have power that I really don’t have,

and other people are not agreeing with that.

Voices of Diversity: Race and Ethnicity

© 2021 Walden University, LLC 2

EARL BRADFORD SMITH: I believe sometimes people are apathetic towards talking

about the issues because they are afraid of– or insensitive to other people. So that

insensitivity creates that unknown factor of people not becoming aware and not being

able to reach out to another person in a positive way.

KATHY PURNELL: Let me follow up with this piece, this first question, right? We’re all in

the room, we can see what we look like, we all have different stories and experiences,

OK? You can hear I have an accent, but I’m Caribbean, British Caribbean, married to an

African American. But what is a defining moment or a personal story that you’d like to

share about race or ethnicity?

EARL BRADFORD SMITH: My defining moment was coming through high school long

ago, which were predominantly white Catholic schools, and being the one and only in

the schools taught by brothers and sisters, and then going on to a historically Black

university in Nashville, Tennessee. So that was quite a culture shock. And then

proceeding on to be a member of the United States Marine Corps in which the color

was green, and everyone reached out and wanted to be a part of the team.

LEIGH HICKS: I think my dynamic moment is I was a deputy sheriff and predominantly

in South Carolina in a Southern state. So as a Black female, I went through different

challenges, and even with the racial inequality that we saw go on with police officers

and young Black men, I experienced a lot of negativity towards that because I was a

Black female in that field.

EMMETT ROBERTS, JR: And I think for me, personally it happened for me when I was

three. My mom for my whole adult life has been a housekeeper. And so she worked for

white families that had money. And I started out at three years old that I was the live

doll, and that’s kind of the way I look at it as I grew older, of a five-year-old white female.

I was her playmate. That was what I was. And I was very aware of being different.

KATHY PURNELL: I remember being called out with my name by a teacher in 1975.

She called me the equivalent of the N-word. And that defined the whole– my life’s work.

As I said, I never want to be like her, but I never questioned who I was as a result of that

moment. I somehow learned as a young kid to be empowered and educate and help

other people.

Voices of Diversity: Race and Ethnicity

© 2021 Walden University, LLC 3

There are deep historical and current contexts associated with race, the topic of race

and ethnicity, especially in America. How does this resonate with you as a social work

professional and why?

LEIGH HICKS: Well, I think it’s important to address cultural diversity. As a social

worker, being able to understand cultural diversity, cultural competence, cultural

awareness is all important. Also, I think that being able to be up front about it is

important, because it is happening. And then, again, as I stated earlier, understanding

that there are different personalities that surround us but being able to understand what

the purpose is.

EMMETT ROBERTS, JR: For me, I think I– as Dr. Hicks has talked about, looking at it

professionally, being very aware that I’m a Black man in America, and that means

something to some people. And it’s not very positive. And so I always like to bring it to

the classroom to say, with what I have, the resources that I have, if it’s a challenge for

me, I can only imagine what it would be for people who don’t have the resources that I


EARL BRADFORD SMITH: My response to that question through my experience have

been being a role model at all levels, whether it be K-12 or in higher education or social

work practice and mental health, children and youth services or medical and/or school

that I’ve done. So I think that has been a really important aspect.

And secondly, being able to provide an historical context in which the undergraduate

and/or graduate students, too, so they have a better understanding of the injustices

historically that various people have gone through or experienced.

KATHY PURNELL: I think just touched on a very important piece in understanding

history. And we know that there are some concerns around the perception of what

history is and how it should be taught around race and/or ethnicity– i.e., Critical Race

Theory and that many people up in arms and– we know that there’s something special

about storytelling and passing on information to empower, to teach, to bring harmony as

well. But sometimes you’ve got to do the hard work and look at the historical pieces

while we’re working to bring people together.

So what are some helpful strategies to encourage culturally responsive practice or even

think about it in terms of education? We’re social work educators. Some of you are

Voices of Diversity: Race and Ethnicity

© 2021 Walden University, LLC 4

practitioners. How do you integrate or at least identify helpful strategies to encourage

culturally responsive practice?

I think about the first step and the GIM model, engagement. Engagement is very

important. Being able to engage with whoever you’re around. Also, building rapport is

important. Being able to establish those relationships are very important. And once

you’re able to establish relationships, and I believe diversity can be on a– we can

understand diversity, and we’ll be able to understand the sensitivity around it and

everything will work out for the best.

EMMETT ROBERTS, JR: Well, Dr. Leigh, you’re a lot nicer than me because I’ll admit

that it may be some difficult conversations that we need to have.


EMMETT ROBERTS, JR: –as a practitioner, I– as a practitioner and also as an

educator, having those conversations with students about, it’s not your client’s

responsibility to teach you about their culture, it’s their responsibility to share with you

about who they are and how they are seen or impacted by the world. But it’s your

responsibility as a practitioner that when you have those questions, that you use the

resources that you have to go out and explore new things. That you’re the person who

takes the initiative and not expect to sit in your office or on the phone or on camera and

everybody brings what they need or they think they need to you. That you have some

responsibility in that encounter.

LEIGH HICKS: And Dr. Emmett, you’re right. I think for me, it’s because I’m able to look

at it from different lenses as a law enforcement, as a social worker, and just as a human

in general. So I think that’s why, but I do agree with you. Definitely they need to take

that opportunity to do it. But I have that perspective from different lenses.

EARL BRADFORD SMITH: I can also build on what my colleagues are saying as far as

varying perspective, which has been so important to me. But making learning creatively

contextual I think is important. Which connecting the teaching learning to the real world

in 2021 and what’s happening in our society, I think that’s so, so significant. And those

conversations, and we can build on them in a positive way in the classroom.

Another idea that I’ve tried is to readapt the classroom environment, and that means

integrating assignments or experiential learning or quizzes or case studies around

Voices of Diversity: Race and Ethnicity

© 2021 Walden University, LLC 5

diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I think that expands or activates students’ prior

knowledge and makes them more aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

And then the last part is integrating partnerships or guest speakers. Having them come

in, I think, from the community. Like Walden University is– it’s a part of a larger

community, and I know there’s many great professionals out there in the world that will

just be wonderful but are role models for our students.

KATHY PURNELL: Yes. I love all of the ideas. The lenses, the various perspectives.

We’re talking about how we see, how we look, how we do, how we apply, how we

evaluate, how we assess. And the responsibility that each individual has to do the work.

Because I know, during when the George Floyd murder happened, there was a call for

what can we do as practitioners, what can we do with social workers as educators, as

organizations to address and create these spaces for these conversations?

And we saw the doors open for chief inclusion officers. Consultants were in great

demand. Some of our students were, well, what can we do? Even our leadership in–

across the board, but what can we do and how can we do this better? As you think

about today’s topic and the conflict around it, and the fact that we all live as Black

African-American, African-Caribbean individuals, and we know what that means and we

have experiences that we could talk about, what would you like the students to consider

or even take away from this topic or this discussion?

EARL BRADFORD SMITH: Knowledge of ways or strategies to increase their self-

awareness. And then secondly, to be able, like my colleague mentioned earlier, to

expand their knowledge in invariant various resources. And I think that’s important. And

the third aspect, which is to keep growing and developing your skill set, your awareness

skills, and practices around diversity, equity, and inclusion. And to face your fears, and

not be afraid to make the mistakes and to say that I am uncomfortable with this

particular people.

KATHY PURNELL: That takes courage. That last piece takes courage.

LEIGH HICKS: And I’ll say, I agree with my colleague. Everything that he said, I believe,

is accurate, and I believe in order to find that, possibly doing a SWOT analysis where

you can understand your strengths, your weaknesses, the opportunities that are out

there, and any threat. So any threats that may be out there that you are having a hard

Voices of Diversity: Race and Ethnicity

© 2021 Walden University, LLC 6

time dealing with a certain population or if that’s a weakness for you, being able to do a

SWOT analysis and determine that.

KATHY PURNELL: I like that. That’s the sheriff coming out right there.

EMMETT ROBERTS, JR: I like that, and I think for me, one of the things that I push at is

helping everybody to understand that we’re all different. And that as we explore that and

as we understand how different we are, then we understand how much alike we really

are. And that self-exploration. That as you figure out who you are and where you’re

going, that you understand you’re not going by yourself, and that there are others and

on the same journey that you’re on. And you can be of help or of hinder. But in the long

run, it’s best for us– it’s best for us to help each other. Because we’re all on the journey


KATHY PURNELL: I’m a storyteller. And I think that– and that’s something that being a

Caribbean, you hear stories. You hear stories around the table in the morning, stories at

lunchtime, stories when you’re at the markets. You bump into people and there’s always

a story. And I think– just thinking about what you said, Emmett, if people would take the

time to just ask someone about their experience, their story, how they see, what lens

are they using to look at these issues, and listen in not a defensive manner, but in a

manner that will open the floor and the door for true connection.

So I would like to see students think about creating space so that those stories can

happen, but they also listen. And as Dr. Smith said, face the fears. And to do that

analysis. What am I thinking? What am I feeling? Why am I responding to this? Know

our own stories. Know our own biases. Know– just know ourselves so that we can do

the work and continue on this journey as you mentioned.

I thank you for taking the time and providing the nuggets today so that we can continue

with these conversations beyond the Voices of Diversity. Thank you.