Learning from one another, diversity panel opens up

  • Published
  • By Brian Shreve
  • Robins Public Affairs
In "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch tells Scout that if she only learns a single trick, she'll be able to get along with all kinds of folks: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

And, understanding and appreciating America's rich, cultural melting pot was the topic at hand Wednesday as Diversity Month continued at Robins with a panel discussion at the Heritage Club Ballroom.

Following the month's theme of United through Diversity, the panel consisted of a representative from each of five base subcommittees - Women's History, Black History, Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage, Hispanic Heritage, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride month committees. There was also a representative for Women's Equality Day.

Referring to himself as a "dual minority," Senior Airman Princeter Fazon, 78th Comptroller Squadron quality assurance manager, sat on the panel on behalf of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage, though he is also on the LBGT Pride Month committee.

"It's important to celebrate our differences and our accomplishments in the Air Force coming from different backgrounds," he said. "Open discussion is always nice, and education is the most powerful weapon."

The audience submitted questions, which were chosen within each subcommittee for discussion.

"The beautiful part is that when the questions were asked, we gave thoughtful, meaningful answers," said Tech Sgt. Tiffany Jackson, part of the committee that organized the diversity celebration. "That way there's an attachment to the question for all of us."

Col. Chris Hill, 78th Air Base Wing commander, was in the crowd and he commended panel members for their contribution to honest dialogue regarding the issues.

"I'm excited about this inaugural event," he said. "We're going to gain some traction."

The two-hour question-and-answer discussion revealed members' unique walk through the military, inspirations, motivational factors for enlisting and how each experience serves to enrich diversity at Robins and in the Air Force as a whole.

"We didn't want this to just be about race or sex," said Jackson. "It's about educating the rest of the base on their issues or situations and different perspectives."

Though the aforementioned novel was published in 1960, as recent tumultuous events in the world suggest, "the past is still relevant to the present," Jackson said. And sometimes it does take more than a single trick: It takes communication and exposure to others.

"No one is born 100 percent diversified," she said. "In civilian life you get to choose what you're exposed to most times, but in the military it's more in your face."

The panel discussion represented a first at Robins, this being the first year the month-long series of events has been held here.

The celebration began Aug. 1 with the Diversity 5K Walk and Run and will continue with a United through Diversity Luncheon on Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the Heritage Ballroom.