Bahai News - Interaction key to better campus racial relations
Interaction key to better campus racial relations
Opinions Forum by Cami Henderson, 11/23/94
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court made one of its most important
decisions, concerning the case of Brown v. the Board of Education of
Topeka, Kansas. Chief Justice Warren stated that "...in the field of
public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place." In
light of that statement, we should ask ourselves why we are trying so hard
to reestablish segregation. Unknowingly or unintentionally, through our
unwillingness to associate with other ethnic groups we are subjecting
ourselves to voluntary segregation. We have the opportunity to expand our
social knowledge by interacting with other ethnic groups which should be a
part of the natural progression in an increasingly diverse environment,
but usually, we don't. If we continue in this direction we will recreate
the practice of separate-but-equal institutions, which is inherently
I was raised to believe that racism is the most challenging issue facing
America, and that the eradication of racism was a responsibility that lies
on the shoulders of all races. As an interracial woman and a member of the
Baha'i faith, I grew up in a very diverse social setting. Attempting to
adjust to racial separation on this campus was very difficult for me.
However, this year I decided I wasn't interested in getting used to this
separation, and that I would look at this issue the way I had been raised
to, which is as a problem. One of the most challenging aspects surrounding
the issues of social segregation and racism on a college campus, or
anywhere, is explaining why its so important to find a solution.
The standard arguments to be made for the importance of finding common
ground among diverse people are not as applicable on a college campus. We
don't give much thought to the idea that this is our biggest opportunity
to learn ourselves and others. We often overlook the fact that by staying
exclusively within our own cultural group, we are limiting ourselves. The
argument that prejudice and stereotypes are conquered through close
association and friendship, not separation and science, between diverse
people doesn't seem to hold much weight at the University.
Yet, it is important to keep in mind one thought, regardless of the fact
that we are at this university to receive an education: We don't know as
much as we think we do. Racism and prejudice are blind imitations of the
past. If we're so educated, why have we chosen to carry on the prejudices,
stereotypes and hatred of past generations without questioning their
validity or worth? Many people dismiss these arguments because they seem
too idealistic and they involve a great deal of effort and change.
However, it is essential to remember that the problems we face are
enormous, and we must have faith and idealism to solve them, coupled
with hard work and flexibility.
The racial status quo under which we live embraces such lofty ideals as
injustice, racial separation and violence that is destroying the fabric
that holds our community together. I have often heard the statement that,
"we'll be able to solve these problems as soon as we get our own house
The problem with this plan is that we don't live in separate houses. The
world is our common house, and each race has its own room. These rooms
are the storehouses for all the cultural beauty and history that every
ethnic group has. Unfortunately, we're so busy polishing our personal
artifacts that we're totally unaware that the foundation of our house is
crumbling. We are moving closer and closer to an increasingly
interdependent, international world. However, the common reaction to this
increased diversity in every sphere of society has been a growing trend
toward ethnocentrism, separatism and the nursing, instead of the healing,
of old wounds.
We don't live in this world by ourselves, and we will not wake one day to
find that everyone outside of our own ethnic group has disappeared. We
will have to deal with all kinds of people, everyday. We ought to consider
it part of our education at the University to prepare ourselves for this
task. Greater intercultural understanding comes from very simple actions.
We need to start desegregating our parties, the tables at the Down Under
and every other place we coexist but don't interact. We will not solve
this problem if we work independently.
Forum submitted by Camille Henderson, sophomore in LAS.
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