Sunday night, Umoja Gospel Choir sang, sororities Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha stepped and three dance teams - NGOMA, Asian Beat and D-squad - performed to a packed house in the North Court Reception Room. I had never before seen all of these student organizations in the same place at the same time and honestly it almost felt like I was at another school. This night coincided with a program called Multicultural Overnight Visitation Experience (MOVE) that welcomes prospective students from all over Virginia to spend a night on out campus.
As a white male, I understand that I'm the farthest thing from minority as possible, but in some ways I would have appreciated an invite to this event. It's unfortunate that it wasn't posted on SpyderBytes because I'm sure there are plenty of other students who might feel the same way. I consider myself a white student that identifies with more than just my white skin. Can a white male fit into the multicultural label? My answer is yes and the the school could benefit from recognizing that fact and incorporating more students into these sorts of programs.
Talking about race isn't really easy anywhere, and it seems like something that I, as a white guy, can only do from a position of privilege. Still, even on a college campus that promotes an all-inclusive environment, spontaneous conversations about race are rare and somebody's got to start it. Schools like ours push for the elusive diversity while at the same time acknowledging that there is never a truly "diverse" group of people ... and never will be. Equality for all mankind is an ideal (and a good one at that), but not a reality. I would never cry foul and use the term "reverse discrimination" cause I think it's a false notion that white people sometimes get angry about (and I can say that 'cause I'm white, so booyah). If there ever was such a thing as "reverse discrimination" against white people it would only come after people of every race were placed on a level playing ground - and that will probably never be the case. For these reasons, I both applaud and caution our school as it moves into the next decade with a strategic plan and an administration willing to tackle difficult issues such as race and class.
My caution is this: While acknowledging difference on our campus is a good thing, I don't want our school to assume difference where it may not exist. I understand (albeit indirectly) that there are plenty of reasons for the existence of the MOVE program and others like it. I've talked to lots of people who say they participated in both MOVE and Pre-Orientation and would not still be students here otherwise. On the flip side, I've heard from countless students who don't exclusively identify with their race and are annoyed by the assumption that they do.
I talked to one of the prospective students from Roanoke, Va., who drove down with his parents earlier that day. I tried to be cautious in my questions because he had only been here for half a day, but I eventually got around to the question, "Have you heard anything about the ethnic make-up of the school?"
He responded that he had already heard that it was a predominately white school and had grown up in a high school that was the same way. I understand that where a student comes from is a big determining factor in how students at Richmond identify but that's something that spans race and class, though we usually don't realize it.
Senior Jasmine Major told me that MOVE was a good program and one of the only ways to see the diversity on campus. Then she added, "In a way, they get a false sense of the minority presence on campus." This false sense of diversity is not necessarily good or bad, but certainly a fact of these sorts of events. The MOVE event used to be called "Minority" and now it's the "Multicultural" program. To this, a current upperclassman told me, "Sometimes it seems like the school changes the word minority to multicultural to seem more inclusive."
I have to admit that I see her point. As a result, I think the school should actively seek out people who identify with the multicultural label (people who aren't technically minorities, but have lived life very differently from the majority of students on this campus). Don't end any of these programs geered toward minorities or "multicultural" students. I don't even think they shoud be significantly changed, but we should gradually work toward incorporating more of the student body. That's the only way students will learn from each other and that's how this school will start to grow together in a more productive way.
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