DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A survey on race has temporarily disappeared from Southern Methodist University’s website, as the university works to add more context, following backlash to some of the questions asked.
“Why are black women always angry?” reads Dr. Maria Dixon Hall. “That is a question that a lot of people ask.”
The head of SMU’s Cultural Intelligence Initiative isn’t offended by the list of questions compiled through interviews with students, faculty, and staff. “Are Jewish people the same as white people?” she said, reading off another example.
Dixon Hall’s more interested in being honest than being polite when it comes to issues of race. “People have these questions. We’re like, let’s answer the questions,” she said.
A year and a half ago, she and her students began polling members of different ethnic groups in the SMU community. “’What are the stereotypical questions you hear?’ And, then we asked students, faculty, and staff, ‘what have you always wanted to know about these other groups?’”
She created an online survey to see which of the questions posed students really wanted answered. “There are no bad questions when you’re an educational institution. The only bad question is the question not asked,” she said.
When some of the questions popped up on social media, though, not everyone agreed that asking things like, “Do black people hate America” had a legitimate purpose.
Questions posed to Asian Americans included, “Is your vision impaired by your eyelids?” and “Do Asians really eat dogs?”
The survey asked if people were interested to learn whether Hispanics and Latinos “grow up learning soccer” and “expect their wives to stay at home”.
It also touched on questions minorities had for “white people”, such as “Why do you riot when your sports teams win or lose?” and “Why do you think Friends is funny?”
About 50 to 60 people had answered the survey before Thursday, when the number of respondents more than doubled, leading Dixon Hall to discover its presence on social media.
Dixon Hall says she’s now working on a preface to the survey that will provide a better explanation of the survey’s purpose. “When people off campus only see a snippet, I can understand the outrage, but it wasn’t for them,” she said.
Dr. Dixon Hall knows the questions are built on stereotypes, but says that’s how the questions arise. “We’re asking the question in the authentic way in which it’s usually asked,” she said. “When you talk about Colin Kaepernick, it’s not, ‘What is he protesting?’ It’s, ‘He must hate America.”
Interest in a question about Ramadan, she says, led to more information being made available to students. “I was able to put info on our website that’s really Ramadan 101.” She aims to find similar teaching opportunities, so students leave the university more culturally intelligent citizens.