Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Need to Promote Diversity

On Monday October 11th, I went to see the “There’s More to Me Than You See” lecture, an event designed to promote the acceptance of all students, regardless of race, religion, or condition. The talk exposed several incidents of racism, religious discrimination and discrimination against disabled or medically handicapped students. As I sat, listening to one speaker after the next, I couldn’t help but cringe at the details of their stories – it felt almost painful to listen, realizing that everything already happened and nothing could be done about it. While the students’ experiences were different – one student spoke of coping with racist remarks, another about his experience with his blindness – their stories were all connected through one overarching theme: the need for respect of diversity in the Loyola community.

The first student to approach the podium, a black student at Loyola who spoke of his encounter with racism on campus, delivered the most powerful speech of the night. He told the audience of an incident in which another Loyola student’s boyfriend was threatening to jump off the Charles Street Bridge, attempting to hurt or kill himself. His girlfriend was yelling out to anyone for help, and naturally, the speaker and his friends came to secure the student until campus police arrived on the scene. Although one may think that the situation only improved from here, unfortunately, in this particular instance one would be wrong. While speaker and his friends attempted to save the other student (they had pinned him on the ground), the student verbally assaulted the black students with the “n” word, racial slurs (such as the implication that “they didn’t belong at Loyola”), and other expletives. The speaker expressed – with much emotion – that as soon as the campus police arrived, he walked away, not wanting to deal with anything else related to that case. “Clearly,” he said, “this proves that we do not live in an post-racial society.”

While I do not wholeheartedly agree the speaker’s closing sentiment – I believe that many efforts have been made in politics, the workforce, and our society as a whole to foster a more accepting atmosphere – I can relate to the necessity to promote diversity through two accounts, one from our readings and one from a personal living experience. In Judith Ortiz Cofer’s “Common Ground,” the author tries to emphasize this need to accept others by showing that we are all the same. The poem describes the narrator’s body parts, likening her features to that of her grandmother, her father, and her mother, all of which portray the theme of oneness. In the closing lines of the poem, Cofer writes that the lines on her hands are “like arrows pointing downward / to our common ground,” (18-19), evidently implying that we as humans are all the same, and therefore we should accept one other.

My personal account of realizing that one should accept of people of all races, creeds, and abilities originates from my life with my little brother, Cameron Wells. Cameron was diagnosed with autism at two years old, and ever since it’s been a daily struggle for both my family and Cameron. We provide him with all of the love and support that he needs, but some unavoidable truths emerge through this tough experience: for one, Cam will never go to college. Cam will never get married, hold a high-paying job in a company, have kids, or live by himself. But we will always love him. This one boy, my wonderful younger brother, has opened my eyes to the value of respecting others who are different than us. Although someone may have a certain disability, belong to a certain ethnic group, or practice a specific religion, it does not change that we are all inherently similar, all capable of being loved and hurt, all Homo sapiens. If we all could come to terms with the belief – not just as a community of Loyola students, but also as a human race – then we will take one step forward to becoming an all-accepting world.

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