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Leading the difficult conversation about racism


Jasmine Marshall and Xavier Nonez, co-presidents of the Minority Business Student Alliance (MBSA), led the UNC Kenan-Flagler Undergraduate Business Program (UBP) community in a conversation about race, racism and current events in the U.S.

“The tragedy that occurred in Minnesota and the tragedies that have persisted for centuries throughout the country have left many people in my community feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and discouraged,” says Marshall (BSBA ’21). “During times like these, it’s important for us to educate ourselves, learn from each other’s perspectives and work to create an anti-racist and inclusive world, starting with our community at Kenan-Flagler.”

“Discussing the events and systems that shape our lives today is an essential step for building a better tomorrow,” says Nonez (BSBA ’21). “We also know that discussion is not enough, so hoped the conversation would leave the community feeling hopeful and well-resourced for action.”

The conversation also was hosted by Jessie LaMasse and Andrea Prego (both BSBA ’21) of the UBP Community, Equity and Inclusion Board and facilitated by Professor Allison Schlobohm. Students were joined by faculty and staff who came to listen and learn.

The students shared how to have a safe conversation, take care of yourself and others, learn more about racism and how to get involved to help end it.

Having a safe conversation

  • Believe what other people say about their own experiences.
  • Listen humbly with the intent to understand, not react.
  • Whenever possible, assume positive intent. If you think your intentions might be misconstrued, clearly name them before moving forward.
  • Aim for dialogue, not debate.
  • Pipe up, pipe down: If you typically speak a lot, make intentional room for others. If you’re typically quiet, consider sharing your thoughts; they’re important.
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You might feel unsettled or defensive; use these moments as opportunities for silent self-reflection.
  • Take care of yourself. Take breaks when you need them.
  • Take care of others. Stay engaged.

Taking care

Caring for yourself

  • It’s ok to not watch the videos and to turn off the news.
  • Recognize and honor your limits for talking about the issue(s).
  • Identify and lean into those around you who understand how you feel and validate your emotions.
  • Remind yourself that you matter.
  • Practice healthy coping mechanisms

Caring for others:

  • Reach out to those you love and care for and let them know they matter
  • Reassure those around you that emotional responses are natural
  • Recognize your limits (in capacity and knowledge)
  • Offer a safe space for listening
  • Help others engage in healthy coping mechanisms
  • Connect to resources when necessary or appropriate

Ways to get involved


  • Safely protest.
  • Donate.
  • Sign petitions.
  • Use your expertise to help small business recover.
  • Support black-owned businesses.
  • Speak up on behalf of colleagues who are discriminated against.
  • Create art to inspire and provide joy.
  • Lead a meditation session.
  • Share facts with others and call out distortions.
  • Organize resources for people in need.
  • Vote.

Be an anti-racist ally:

  • De-prioritize white comfort.
  • Listen.
  • Decentralize yourself from the conversation.
  • Use your platform to spread awareness and ways to support.
  • Don’t tell people how to grieve or take action.
  • Don’t make your education someone else’s burden.

The student leaders shared more ways to learn more – book, film and podcast recommendations and organizations to follow – and suggested next steps.

“We have so far to go, and we can only get there together,” says Schlobohm.

Featured graphic thanks to Jasmine Marshall.