(This post also appears on the Princeton Comment blog)

Angela Amar, an African American nurse and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar, tells of an incident when a patient’s wife referred to her as “a lil’ colored girl here to see you.”

That was one issue to for her to work through, but Amar reveals the bigger issue is when her students say she is “smart.” Faculty members are supposed to be intelligent, Amar points out. Her white colleagues do not hear the same compliment.

“So, is it something that is remarkable because I am a woman of color? Am I an exception? Does my mere presence challenge students’ perceptions of African Americans?”

Yes, her presence does challenge perceptions. She is effective as a mentor for minorities, but even more as a challenge to stereotypes that the majority holds.

Amar currently works in Georgia, and I don’t know where the “lil colored girl” incident took place, but let me make it plain to my Southern friends that I realize Northerners can be equally steeped in harmful stereotypes.

Here is the link, again, to Amar’s essay, and I’ll let her have the last word:

Diversity is not a one-way glass that only directs light in one direction. Diversity is a window—it lets light in and out. The benefits and opportunities of diversity are not just for the individuals who bring the diversity to the environment; diversity benefits everyone.

by Barbara Figge Fox