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Minority students offered no-whites ‘safe space’ racial healing circle

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San Diego State University is set to host a “Racial Healing Workshop” for minority students and faculty later this month that aims to help students and professors of color get through college and career life.

“This intimate one and a half hour Racial Healing Workshop catered to students and faculty of color will be led by well-known professional Dr. Cheryl E. Matias,” state the student organizers of the event, the Marriage and Family Therapy Association, a recognized student organization under the College of Education.

“She will provide a safe space for students and faculty of color to discuss issues that impact persons of color in higher academia,” the event’s online description states. “Dr. Matias will facilitate group healing and she will provide tools to help POC [people of color] navigate racialized spaces such as higher education and professional fields.”

Called “Taking Back Our Truths: Healing Circle,” it is scheduled for March 22 at the public university’s student union building.

The healing circle takes place after a connected event on campus called “Taking Back our Truths: Deconstructing Whiteness in Academia and Embracing Racial Justice and Healing workshop.” This too will be hosted at San Diego State through the student therapy association and is the first part of the association’s racial healing activities.

According to the deconstructing whiteness workshop’s online description, Matias will give a one hour research-driven lecture on whiteness in higher academia and the negative impacts it has on people of color.

“This workshop will raise awareness about the challenges that universities face in attracting, supporting and retaining students and faculty of color. In addition, the research-driven lecture will also provide tools for white identified faculty who work with students of color to help raise consciousness about allyship in academia and professional fields,” the event’s website states.

Reached for comment by The College Fix, La Monica Everett-Haynes, a university spokesperson for SDSU’s Office of the President, said that despite the way in which the event description is written, white people are allowed to attend the racial healing circle if they want.

“The event is in no way barring white students, faculty and staff from participation,” she said.

She also stated that the deconstructing whiteness workshop may help reduce discrimination and racism at the school.

“The event is designed to connect students and faculty of diverse backgrounds to understand the experiences of people from minoritized backgrounds. Those who attend will discuss issues of race and identify tools necessary to help students and faculty to work collaboratively and to support one another in ways that may help reduce instances of discrimination and racism,” Everett-Haynes wrote.

“[SDSU’s student] groups regularly host programs and events collectively to explore and dialogue about discipline-specific topics related to careers, community engagement and service, philanthropy, spirituality and religion, race, class, cultural traditions and numerous other topics and interests. Participation in such programs and events is optional, not mandatory,” Everett-Haynes said. “This type of interaction helps to honor SDSU’s vision and mission to support a diverse and inclusive campus climate, which benefits us all, not merely specific groups.”

Cheryl Matias and the Marriage and Family Therapy Association did not respond to an inquiry from The College Fix for comment.

Healing circles are not new to San Diego State. In 2016, it hosted a “Healing Circle” to help students process their confusion, anger and fear over Donald Trump’s election and develop ways to stand against “injustice.”

Editor’s note: After publication, Everett-Haynes contacted The College Fix to state that white people are allowed to attend racial healing workshop if they like. This article has been updated to reflect this. The article has also corrected Everett-Haynes’ name and clarified that the deconstructing whiteness and racial healing workshops are two parts of one overall event.

MORE: Massive new diversity initiative at SDSU combats faculty microaggressions

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About the Author
Drew Van Voorhis attends San Diego State University, majoring in business. On campus, he is involved in College Republicans and is an active member of PragerFORCE.

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