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Controversial incident with CovCath students is learning opportunity, experts say

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jan 22, 2019

CINCINNATI — It's been several days since video surface of an incident involving Covington Catholic students and a Native American elder.

Sean Rugless, a board member at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, said there are lessons to be learned from the encounter.

"What we're seeing here is probably one of the most transparent opportunities to understand that our presence, our stereotypes and our attitudes might lead to behavior that no one really wants to see," he said.

While the Freedom Center isn't taking a position on the incident, Rugless said it raises questions about "implicit bias," which is basically unconscious stereotyping. The Freedom Center has an entire exhibit dedicated to understanding implicit bias.

"Sometimes we view the world from our own set of experiences, and we have our own social and cultural footprints," Rugless said.

Gene Ellington is the president of Ellington Management Services, a consulting firm that specializes in diversity and economic inclusion. He said it's important for people to respect differences and embrace other cultures to avoid situations like those caught on video in Washington Friday.

"We have to take time to learn different cultures, what's important to those different cultures," he said. "What some might see as mocking, others see it as kids just having fun."

Learning about other cultures has to be intentional, with interactions and conversations, according to Ellington.

"When we spend time with people who are different than we are, we obviously begin to understand them differently and I think we have a different level of respect for one another.