The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday December 3rd

Defining diversity on our campus

Last week, my roommate sent me a link to a YouTube video in which a white comedian in blackface interviewed students at Brigham Young University about their knowledge of black history.

Many of the students were unable to say for sure whether Black History Month was March or November (for the record, it’s February). And when asked to name an influential figure in black history, one student seemed to draw a blank — until he remembered Samuel L. Jackson.

Out of the 14,000 students at BYU, only 176 of them are black. But these demographics are no excuse for this level of ignorance.

And though the video was likely edited to highlight the most ridiculous comments, the casual apathy these answers revealed is still problematic.

My initial reaction was, of course, frustration. As a minority, I must be aware and concerned with the issues of the majority community in order to be functional in society. But the majority community can get away with having little to no knowledge of minority communities.

Why is this double standard socially acceptable? Why don’t we feel more obligated to alleviate this ignorance?

Although I believe UNC’s student body is far more informed than the students in the video, some of these trends are still seen at our university — and not just among the majority.

Not only within the white community but within all distinct communities at UNC, we are too comfortable being apathetic toward the happenings outside of our own racial communities.

I believe this is directly connected to a misinterpretation of the idea of diversity and true ethnic integration. For so long, we have believed that meeting a school quota for minority students will create a diverse campus.

We also falsely believe that abstaining from highlighting racial and ethnic difference and thus moving toward a colorblind society is what diversity calls for.

Diversity is not achieved through pretending our differences do not exist. It is the exact opposite of colorblindness, and certainly can’t be reached merely through minority quotas.

Diversity means being knowledgeable, aware and concerned about communities outside of your own. This must come from a desire, or even a feeling of obligation, to be informed.

Yes, it is disheartening to know that white students at BYU think that Black History Month is “the month black history started.” But what is most disturbing is that many of these same students would believe they were diverse because they know black people, their neighbor is Hispanic and their favorite teacher was from Pakistan.

We cannot only point the fingers between white and black, minority and majority, offended and offender. Although various groups may be at fault for various reasons, what it comes down to is the awareness that each person chooses to have individually.

Diversity is not a process of evolution. It won’t come about without deliberate attention. It is a challenge we all face to refuse ignorance. To take a responsibility in being aware of the various communities that make up our campus. To foster an environment that actively works toward inclusion, integration and unity.

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