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Diversity at WWU

Diversity at WWU

A Look at Our Community 

By Brooklin Painter 

Walla Walla University’s facts page states that there is “46% of Ethnic diversity” on campus. [1] The Collegian spoke with Pedrito Maynard-Reid, assistant to the president for diversity and a professor of theology, to discuss diversity and what being a person of color means in our community. 

The 46% of Ethnic diversity, according to Maynard-Reid, means that our school looks predominantly like America, which is white. 46% are all people of color. The rest of the 54% are white people. Out of the 46%, 22% are Hispanic students, and 4-6% are Black students. 

Some of the things on campus that help to include people of color are Hispanic Ministries, APIC, BSCF, LatinX, and Berean fellowship. But that might not be enough. Maynard-Reid said, “Here we have 46% of the student body as people of color, but not in ASWWU, the administration, and the faculty and staff.” In ASWWU, there have only been a couple of Black presidents through the years. Its officers have been even fewer. [2] 

Maynard-Reid spoke about how it appears that Black students are rarely chosen as an ASWWU president. “People just don’t feel that they have a burden for voting for others. It shows the privilege and power that the dominant culture has. Leaders that are in the people of color community, don’t feel that they would be voted on and they aren’t going to put themselves forward to lose because people tend to like their own culture. People are often afraid of other cultures that are very different from their own. There are all kinds of reasons, but part of it is that our country is divided on the racial lines. The effects of slavery continues where Black are lesser and not fully human.” [3] 

Black students’ voices on campus are not always heard. Maynard-Reid said that many Black students have left “because of racism. We are trying to make this place a place where they can stay no matter where you come from. No matter how minoritized you are, we want you to know that there are people here that love you and care about you.” [4] 

A Black woman fighting for the power to overcome racial injustice. Photo by Nathan Dumlao, taken on 6/10/2020. Source: unsplash.com

In 1989, when Maynard-Reid came to teach at WWU, there were only three Black teachers. He told them that there needed to be more Black faculty on campus. So, he started a group called the Black Faculty and Staff Fellowship. The fellowship was intent on making Black lives matter on campus. He wanted the few Black people on campus to feel that they were at home. 

Maynard-Reid said that he feels like his voice is heard on campus. He has been on the president’s cabinet for 24 years, the longest of anyone there. He feels that his opinions and decisions are heard seriously by the other staff and faculty. 

 Maynard-Reid would love to see more Black-led vespers and CommUnity programs. He wants them to be at least more integrated into the services. “Every Black History Sabbath people say, ‘Why can’t we have this every week and just have one of the regular Sabbaths once a year?’” said Maynard-Reid. [5] 

“The Black club, BSCF, is doing so many good things. Their vespers was spectacular. The club has 120 members. We have never had so many. There are so many people that like what we do. They love the culture and affirm us,” said Maynard-Reid. [6] 

In February of 1991, Maynard-Reid gave his first preaching of Black History for Sabbath. Before anyone could choose to preach that month, he volunteered. He said that no one even had any idea it was Black history month. Black History Sabbath has been celebrated in the University Church ever since then. 

As a Black man, Maynard-Reid has experienced racism on and off campus. He said that he will sometimes call people out about it and sometimes he has to be more subtle. Most of the racism Maynard-Reid experiences takes place in town. On campus, it is possible that there is less racism, and/or people don’t do it as much since he is in a “power position” as a professor and in administration. [7] 

One time when Maynard-Reid was walking into Andy’s Market, he heard, “‘click, click, click.’ A Black man is in the parking lot and he may come and steal my car [they think]. I say to people, ‘Hi sir! How are you doing, yeah man!’ and they say, ‘ Oh wow you’re from Jamaica!’ So they see me as exotic now. But before, they looked at my race and I was a thief,” said Maynard-Reid. [8] 

Another incident happened to Maynard-Reid when he walked into a store. The workers were not walking up to him and asking to help him look for things. He was in the store for about 15 minutes and was still being ignored. He noticed that one of his white students had just walked into the store. The lady had immediately gone to help the student. So, Maynard-Reid told that lady that she was being racist because she would not help a Black man.  

Maynard-Reid responded to these occurrences by saying, “If you are Black in America you are going to get treated racist, but it doesn’t bother me because I think that they have a problem and they need help. But not everyone can take it that way.” [9] 

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“People like to deny that they are racist. The worst thing a racist wants to hear is that they are racist. They want to believe they are not, even when they know they are” said Maynard-Reid. [10] 

Maynard-Reid asked for more allies for the cause. For whoever is “minoritized,” for anyone who is in a strong position to help the weak. “People of color should not be the ones who are dominantly fighting and defending themselves. People in privilege and power, the whites, should be the ones that are fighting the battle for them, the allies,” said Maynard-Reid. [11] 

The message that Maynard-Reid leaves us all with is the word “incarnation.” He says he uses this word as a metaphor for Jesus leaving the power and privilege of heaven to come help save us. Maynard-Reid said, “He loves us, became like us to do that so that we can be up there. So whoever has power and privilege like Jesus, needs to incarnate themselves into those who don’t have that, so that they can come up.” [12] 

References 

1. Key Facts. (n.d.). Walla Walla University. https://www.wallawalla.edu/about-wwu/general-information/key-facts/  

2. Interview with Pedrito Maynard-Reid, 1/17/2022. 

3-12. Ibid. 

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