Diversity speaker talks sexuality, racial profiling

By Kendall Smith

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, perhaps no issues are more prominent today than gay rights and racial profiling. This week’s diversity dialogue features Jonathan Perry, who will speak about his experiences and struggles with being a gay, black and HIV-positive man.

Perry, who appeared on Oprah in 2004, will discuss a range of topics dealing with diversity and tolerance.

“I’m really big on the fact that we all make mistakes,” Perry said. “It’s about personal responsibility and accountability. It’s not about how bad you messed up. Be willing to accept those mistakes and move past them.”

Perry, intends to discuss how racial profiling has drastically affected his life.

“I was falsely accused, arrested and sat in jail for 30 days only to have all the charges dropped because they didn’t have any evidence,” Perry said. “I felt like my civil rights were being violated, and I’m still dealing with it two months later. It taught me to be more vigilant.”

“It was the most traumatic experience of my entire life,” said Perry. “For law enforcement agencies to arrest people simply because they’re black — it has a profound impact on how I feel about people.”

Perry explained just how damaging the experience was and how it still follows him, even today.

“I have nightmares about police now as a result of this experience,” Perry said.

Still, Perry insists it is important not to lump everyone into one category, despite how awful racial profiling can be.

Perry said conquering racial profiling is possible.

“Intolerance exists, and as victims, we have to rise above that,” Perry said. “You can live through it. Overcoming adversity is the most important thing.”

He also believes America has made more progress with tolerance towards sexuality than in tolerance toward racial diversity.

“We’ve come a lot further with sexual orientation than ethnicity,” Perry said. “9/11 certainly didn’t make it any better. People were upset about the Muslim community center being built over there. People need a reason to complain. When all the complaining is done, what next?”

Perry will speak Thursday at 7 p.m. in the small ballroom of the Student Center.