Oklahoma Christian University hosted Jen Fry to speak with campus leaders in clubs and athletic teams.
Fry is a former women’s volleyball coach at the University of Illinois, Washington State University and Elon University. When she saw that there were only 300 Black people out of 6,000 students at Elon, she realized her calling was to speak on racial inequality, diversity inclusion and the injustices people of color face.
The seminar was held in the Judd Theater where Fry spoke openly about the need to discuss race and not shy away from it.
“My goal is to help you learn how to have really uncomfortable conversations,” Fry said. “My goal is to help you learn how to handle conflict. My goal is to help you learn how to challenge people in a way that keeps the conversation going. … I want to go deep to make you uncomfortable.”
During her seminar she had three breakout sessions where people in attendance found a partner and held those uncomfortable conversations.
Fry said her seminar is meant to be inclusive, meaning the audience would contribute to her lesson. She asked numerous questions and did not fear calling out the white audience members.
“Let me get a white person to talk,” Fry said. “Speak up about and recognize y’all’s privilege, that’s the only way anything will ever change.”
Audience members were engaged and open about questions she asked.
“Race was always a taboo subject in my family,” one audience member said. “It was like sex, never really to be talked about and kind of ignored.”
Fry said that what America needs most is for white people to start seeing color.
“We don’t need people to be ‘colorblind,’” Fry said. “Because when Americans are colorblind, people of color die.”
She pointed out the data and statistics of a woman of color being more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman in the same scenario.
“If we’re colorblind how can we address these medical inequalities that plague minorities?” Fry asked. “A woman of color is more likely to die during childbirth than a white woman in the same situation and the same background. If we’re colorblind how can we address and fix issues like that?”
She touched on prominent subjects of today such as police brutality, the criminal justice system, microaggressions and systemic racism.
Fry said that for racism to be fixed in our nation people need to realize it’s a systemic problem, not an individual one.
“Saying racism is an individual problem deflects shame and guilt from individuals who don’t see themselves as part of the problem,” Fry said. “Once you admit it’s a systemic problem, and you do have privilege by being born white and that America is built on 400 years of racism and oppression, you have to accept guilt and shame — and that’s hard for a lot of people.”
Fry ended by accepting questions from the audience and encouraging them to be as open with their questions as possible. She did not want anybody to hold back and ask even the most difficult questions.
Even among the harder questions asked Fry did not hold back on her answers and gave straightforward answers supported by statistics and facts.