Young African American woman in cap and gown, holding Oakland University diploma, smiles.

Befriending Differently

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By Hadeel Al-Daoud

My name is Candace Campbell. I am a recent Communication Master of Arts graduate. I work on campus in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

What is diversity to you? What is inclusion to you? What do they mean to you?

Young African American woman in cap and gown, holding Oakland University diploma, smiles.
Candace Campbell smiles with her diploma at Oakland University after her graduation ceremony in 2018. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Communication.

To me, diversity is recognizing, acknowledging, and accepting different cultural backgrounds, different ages, and different physical capabilities into spaces that are generally made up of a dominant demographic. Inclusion is making sure these marginalized groups have equal opportunities in these spaces. D&I means breaking down systemic and systematic “-isms” that have marginalized the previous groups.

Share a story that reveals a bias you have overcome.

As a Black American woman, in my youth proximity to White Americans has been limited. As an adult, I have been exposed to new and different people through the workforce, which has allowed me to make new friends and breakdown prejudices and biases toward other racial groups. Normally, I would not be open to the idea of making friends outside of work, let alone with someone who does not relate to me. I always felt like society has forced Black Americans to automatically relate to white American culture. Now that I am older, I have become more open to learning and befriending people with diverse backgrounds.

Describe an encounter with someone from a different culture, background, or orientation that has positively influenced you.

I have a coworker that I have become close with. I have never bonded with white women growing up, because I have always felt like they cannot and will not relate to me or have anything in common with me. My coworker and I began going to lunch together and hanging out outside of work and we have a good relationship. We learned that we have more in common that I originally assumed.

How has diversity and/or inclusion on OU’s campus shaped your growth as an individual?

Honestly, it hasn’t. I don’t feel like OU has reached a point where their D&I initiatives have been effective enough yet. I believe that there is great potential though. OU has a lot of great multicultural activities and initiatives. Just me personally, as a student and staff member, it has only made me realize where I am lacking in my efforts to be more inclusive of other diverse groups besides differences in races.

Where do you feel comfortable and/or safe in expressing your identity on campus? Where do you feel you belong on campus?

I feel safe expressing my identity wherever I go; I feel like I belong wherever I go. This is only because I have grown to be this way. If I was an older version of myself, I would say with groups of my peers that look like me.

If you could change (or improve) one thing about the world, what would it be?

Any oppressive system that forces people to believe they HAVE to act, live, dress, look a certain way or align with the beliefs of the general populous.

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