HAZLETON, Pa. — Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and nationally recognized race relations expert, spoke with faculty and staff at Penn State Hazleton on Thursday, Aug. 19, as part of a diversity, equity and inclusion presentation titled “Racism, Race Dialogue and a Bridge to a New America.”
During an informal conversation portion of the presentation, moderated by Director of Student Services and Engagement Tracy Garnick, Lassiter emphasized the importance of understanding one another despite differences that may exist on the surface.
“We need to see people as more than just their racial stereotype and expand the dialogue beyond just Black and white,” he said. “Our democracy is not just made up of Blacks and whites. We have to look at the challenges that everyone faces.”
Lassiter also discussed the significance of having meaningful conversations about race with children at a young age, as difficult as they may be.
“These are hard conversations,” he said. “But some of the things we can do during a child’s early formative years are to just talk with them about finding similarities, forming friendships, and respecting and engaging with people who may not look like you.”
After touching on subjects including race, sensitivity and awareness, he fielded questions from the audience on a range of additional topics, including ways to make the workforce more diverse and inclusive. Lassiter also highlighted anti-racism training, multi-culturalism courses and other ways to address racism and forms of discrimination on college campuses.
“We are privileged and fortunate to have hosted one of the leading voices in race relations here on campus,” Chancellor Gary M. Lawler said. “We’re grateful for the important conversations evoked during Chad’s visit and look forward to continuing that dialogue as we work to uphold our mission of fostering a warm and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff and visitors at Penn State Hazleton.”
The Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission is the state’s top civil rights enforcement agency. As its executive director, Lassiter created a “No Hate in Our State” town hall series designed to tackle the issue of white nationalism in the state, a “Social Justice Lecture Series” dedicated to providing a forum for communities across the commonwealth to voice their issues and concerns, and several other initiatives and free trainings aimed at promoting equal opportunities.
Lassiter is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Social Work, where he earned the A. Phillip Randolph Award in 2001. He was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice in 2018.