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Speaker Makes Diversity Awareness Accessible in the Real World

Published: March 02, 2007
By Robin Roger
Web Writer

The first step toward diversity awareness is admitting you have a problem, according to Mohammed Bilal, a cast member of MTV’s reality show the Real World San Francisco.

A diversity consultant, Bilal spoke about the topic to a number of UT students Feb. 28 in the Reeves Theater. The event was a part of Black History Month and was sponsored by Student Productions. Bilal started his presentation by having the students yell, “I am a homogene!”

“We are all uncomfortable with difference,” he said. “So we are all homogenes in one way or another.”

In his speech, which was peppered with poetry and freestyle raps, Bilal outlined his 12-step program toward diversity awareness. The steps ran the gamut from finding commonalities to traveling to foreign countries.

The second step is to know yourself. For instance, Bilal once met a transexual woman at a barbecue. Despite his liberal upbringing in San Francisco, he didn’t like her, but he couldn’t figure out why.

“So I started to peel back the layers that represent each part of my life,” he said. “The layers that socialized who I am: the mosque I grew up in, the media, my blackness.”

He realized it was an experience from his childhood, when his father denounced transexual prostitutes as sacrilegious, which caused him to have these feelings of dislike toward this woman. He decided to reach out to her and become her friend, he said.

Step six, “the sexy step,” as Bilal called it, is to push your boundaries.

“Once a month, have a culturally different day,” he said.

Knowing how to dance merengue, for instance, will make you seem more sophisticated, attractive and worldly to that special someone, Bilal told the students.

There is a heartfelt part of him that appreciates diversity, but there is also a logical part, Bilal said. Connections made over time broaden horizons and can even help you get a job.

“Diversity facilitates resiliency,” he said.

Bilal used a different approach, said UT junior Rochelle Davis, giving suggestions she hadn’t heard before.

"Even the simplest circumstances you can make into something,” she said. “Like when you happen to sit next to someone. It’s easily done.”

Davis and Manatee Community College student Luke Jaeger demonstrated how easy it was when they volunteered to go on stage and make small talk. The two students, who had never met before, found out they had a lot in common.

“Right now, you’re in college,” Bilal said to his audience of undergrads. “This is the best time for you to interact with someone who’s different. Find that thing you have a passion for that’s away from race, gender and ethnicity, and talk about it.”