News and Events
Pepperdine Students Ask Important Questions about Racial Stereotypes
The Office of Intercultural Affairs explored the issue of racial stereotyping in America and at Pepperdine University on Thursday, Oct. 16, when students gathered to ask big questions about cultural misconceptions at the "Did You Just Say That?" evening on the Malibu campus.
Approximately 50 students attended the event to discuss insulting stereotypes, "good" stereotypes, and the frustrations that come with both. Nadia Despenza, the intercultural affairs African American education intern, came up with the idea to host an open and honest panel to learn more about the reasons and thinking behind persistent stereotypes.
"I was expecting that people would get defensive about their race's stereotypes, but people were honest, blunt, and informative," says Despenza, a chemistry major in her sophomore year. "I was very pleased with the conversation because it was so blunt. Every culture has stereotypes, and everybody makes them."
In the two weeks prior to the panel discussion, Despenza and her fellow event organizers, Natalie Gomez, the Latino education intern, and Kaileen Kelly, the Asian American education intern, distributed a written survey to students in the Waves Cafeteria.
Results from 200 completed surveys revealed that stereotypes are often culturally based and reflect media generalizations about race or culture, for example: Southerners are rednecks and all white people have easy lives. Student representatives from different racial or cultural backgrounds discussed the results during the evening panel session.
Don Lawrence, director of intercultural affairs, says, "I was surprised that there was no consensus that stereotypes are bad; most thought some are good, and some are bad. No one came to the conclusion that stereotypes are totally harmful but that it just depends what it is and who says it. I would have liked more students to challenge that. But the whole point of the program was to give students a voice to talk about race, and it was refreshing to 'go there'."
Pepperdine's Intercultural Affairs Office serves as one of the many avenues on campus where students can gain the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary to become culturally competent. The office facilitates and sponsors a variety of workshops, seminars, excursions, forums, debates, and convocation programs throughout the year in order to promote intercultural understanding between and amongst students. Click here to learn more.