By Kristen Griffith, The Whetstone
Almost a year ago, I struggled writing an article about race at Wesley. I thought it was apparent that our school has a racial divide, but it was hard getting others to speak once they saw my pen and notepad.
But after walking into Malmberg 114 on Jan. 29, I realized the conversation was finally happening.
I was invited to attend “O.N.E. – Open. New. Eager.” A workshop where students and staff could discuss the lack of diversity here at Wesley and what we could do to change it.
Ironically, the small group of participants lacked diversity. Of the seven students there, five of them were black and two were white. Two of the five staff members were white and the other three were black.
Although diversity is a broad topic, most of the four-hour-long workshop was spent discussing race.
The students were quick to point out the obvious divide between black and white students.
Events hosted by organizations with black affiliations, like Alpha Kappa Alpha and Black Student Union, regularly attract black audiences. Some white students have admitted that the affiliation makes them hesitant to participate, but even organizations like the Student Activities Board (SAB) draw a majority of black students to their events.
Some pointed out the lack of diversity in the north campus square, which is usually occupied by black students.
The most diverse area on campus is the new coffee shop, The Midnight Roast, except when SAB hosted Mixxy Monday in the Underground Jan. 23. Black students sang and danced to the DJ’s music while fewer than a dozen white students chitchatted, drank coffee and did their homework.
I found the obvious divide humorous and pointed it out to a couple of friends in the coffee shop. The humor quickly went away when a white student jokingly referred to the people in the Underground as “ratchet” – slang for rowdy or even uncivilized.
What the diversity workshop lacked was the perspective of white students who do not participate in student activities.
I’m talking about the white student who referred to Mixxy Monday as ratchet. The white students who laughed when I asked to interview them about BSU’s Black Lives Matter poster. And the white student who did not want to participate in the college walk-out protest because he assumed the presence of black people would trigger police brutality.
Why not participate? Why not talk about it? How do we change it?
Toward the end of the workshop, we brainstormed solutions to end the diversity problem.
A few ideas consisted of installing diversity-training programs, have freshmen seminar classes that focuses on diversity and to start a social media campaign.
Other personal ideas were to be aware of the diversity problem, examine your own biases and find a way to contribute to the solution.
I assumed that I was already aware of the lack of diversity, but it dawned on me that race may not be the only problem at Wesley. There may be many diversity issues on campus that I never thought about because it doesn’t directly affect me.
Acknowledging your own biases may help the conversation when confronting someone else’s.
Students I spoke to afterward agreed that a bigger audience would have made the workshop more effective. But if we follow through with our suggested solutions and uphold the pledge we signed to “honor diversity at Wesley College,” then it’s possible that diversity can improve on campus.