Yesterday’s Town Hall Meeting on diversity within the faculty, and school as a whole, got me thinking about the topic in general. While I do applaud President Seligman and his push toward more diversity within the University, I think some attention needs to be placed upon the current student body as well.
One of my professors (a black female, in case you were wondering) once taught that everyone in the world is in the process of “becoming.” For instance, middle-class people vote Republican instead of Democrat because they see themselves as eventually becoming upper-class and will want the economic benefits that the Republican Party brings to the upper class.
Here at UR, we are all becoming better educated members of society, people that should have a positive effect on the country and the world. However, the only way we are going to be able to do such things is to be able to step outside of our comfort zones. In this particular case, I am talking about racial comfort zones.
The undergraduate population at this school has a serious problem when it comes to diversity. Not in the sense that there isn’t any, because I wouldn’t be here if there weren’t, but that the diverse people on campus only hang with each other. In other words, this school has a major clique problem.
In my four years here, when I walk around campus, it seems that large numbers of black students only hang out with other black students. Large numbers of Hispanic students only hang out with other Hispanic students, Indians with other Indians and the Asians with other Asians. There are probably white students on this campus who only hang out with other white students. This can start getting out of hand when you start breaking groups down by nationality and religion – Chinese with only other Chinese, Puerto Ricans with only Puerto Ricans, Jews with only Jews, etc.
What I have said thus far is not necessarily a problem, per se, but the fragmentation has started to get out of control lately because people are starting to feel “not enough” – not black enough, not Hispanic enough, not Asian enough, not Jewish enough, not Christian enough, not white enough.
It has gotten to the point where we are creating new types of minorities – minorities within minorities. Not everybody is like this, but enough are. This has got to stop in society as a whole, but especially on this campus.
People need to start stepping out of their comfort zones and bridge some gaps. This does not mean that you should have to change your personality, but the change in perspectives, opinions and experiences could do you some good in the long run.
I believe that I am a better person today because I opened myself up to every different type of person – male, female, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, immigrants, gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, undergraduate, graduate or doctoral, poor, rich, stupid, smart, lazy, energetic, so on and so forth. But yet this has come at a price – I’m not black enough in some circles.
Do not cry for me, because I couldn’t care less. However, if we as a human race continue to isolate ourselves further and further from each other, then nothing is going to change. Society is not going to get any better if we continue to fragment ourselves. The phrase “United we stand, divided we fall” is attributed to Aesop, and I believe it has just as much relevance today as it did in ancient Greece. There are too many things going on in the world for us to be like this. If we continue to be divided, we are never going to be able to successfully fight terrorism, change national politics, fight social injustices, etc.
So go talk to that smart or funny person in class that isn’t a part of your clique and get to know him or her a little. It could go well, or horribly, but at least you made an effort to step outside your comfort zone. Or stay ignorant and isolated, only spending your time here with people exactly like those back home. The choice is yours.
Miller is a member of the class of 2007.