The Whitworth freshman class of 2022 is statistically the most diverse group in the history of this university. Thirty-four percent of the freshmen are from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds, and 33.5 percent of these new students are first-generation. As Whitworth is continuing to grow in diversity, what must this community do to avoid the simultaneous blossoming of ignorance?
“Asking questions is okay if you’re willing to learn,” says Lysa Cole, a member of the black community and of the class of 2022. If you are unfamiliar with someone’s background or ethnicity, it is key is to come from the perspective of someone who wants to know more and who is willing to be educated. Jalen Cortez, a freshman and student of Mexican and Filipino heritage, agreed, emphasizing that it is not necessary to be of a specific ethnicity to join a club surrounding it.
However, lack of knowledge cannot be an excuse for disrespect. Too often, people of color (POC) are approached with the question, “what are you?” Though such an inquisition may not necessarily come from an intentional place of disrespect, it is rooted in ignorance. Also related is asking “no, where are you really from?” Just don’t do it. Getting to know someone beyond their initial appearance should be one’s foremost goal.
Unfortunately, offending someone in this way is not limited to any specific age group. Just this week, one of my friends was asked the latter question by a faculty member, who, though seemed to mean no harm, did not realize the effects of their query. Education regarding the topic of diversity is for everyone.
This is just one incident out of too many. Even though such interactions may seem easily blown over, those who are forced to deal with them are not the ones who need to “get over it” or “let it slide.” The only thing to “get over” is ignorance.
As the reality sinks in that the world isn’t yet as equal as it should be, here’s the cliché list of items you can follow to make this campus, and any place beyond, a safer and more educated environment:
1. Be willing to learn, especially since we’re at a school.
2. Don’t tip-toe around the subject of diversity and race – delve into it with an open mindset.
3. Embrace the unfamiliar.
4. Just be a decent human being.
You got this.