As it gets closer to the end of the semester, there is a lot going on with WCU students. We’re making plans for the spring, preparing for finals, counting down the days until winter break. but in the midst of all of that there is a bigger issue at hand, an issue that has clawed its way up from the deep grave in which we have laid it to rest. This issue cannot be ignored any longer.Two weeks ago, groups on campus instituted West Chester’s first annual Minority Day of Silence. The purpose of this day was to demonstrate the large amount of minority students who do not feel comfortable on this campus- something that was also shown with the results of last year’s Campus Climate Survey. The Minority Day of Silence was about hearing the voices of the racial, gender, sexual orientation and various other types of minorities we have here at WCU.
It was this day that brought one of many heated discussions to the Student Government Association’s Senate Meeting. During this discussion various senators and non-senators expressed their views on this topic and as the discussion continued the amount of tension and discomfort in the room increased as well. But why? Why do people feel so uncomfortable talking about the issues that are happening right before our eyes? The issue that I’m referring to is not necessarily racism or homophobia. The issue is merely insensitivity: cultural insensitivity which has created a trend of ignorance that is running rampant on our campus.
The reason people feel uncomfortable on campus is because we, as a student body and as individuals don’t take others into consideration before we think, act, and speak. We generalize. We reduce entire races, organizations, and nations down to the actions of one individual. We judge one another before we have even the slightest clue as to why that person is and acts the way they do. More importantly, we judge without taking into consideration a person’s background and their personal experiences and things that lead to ignorance and cultural insensitivity to others. These things are detrimental to our progress as a University and as individuals, and we ignore them. We ignore them because in large part, human beings seem to have the attitude that if it doesn’t affect us directly, it doesn’t matter. False. It does matter, and more importantly it affects every person on this campus because as “normal” as we all like to think we are, everyone is a minority in some aspect.
It’s time to break the silence, West Chester. Yes, these topics are uncomfortable and awkward, but discussing them is the only way that we will be able to make progressive steps to find a resolution. Professor Simon Ruchti once said “We have to get comfortable owning our own issues.” We have to get comfortable with them because we created them.
People keep expecting a higher authority like SGA to step in and do something but we have to do this ourselves. We have to make an effort to change our attitudes towards other people, even the attitudes we don’t realize are there. We have to make a point to talk about these things and most importantly we have to make a point to listen. We have to listen to what other people have to say: people that look, speak, and act differently than we do. Find out how they feel and where they’re coming from. Take it upon yourself to become more educated about people that may not be the same as you. Appreciate the differences between everyone, but also notice the many similarities connecting you and others.
We have to do this ourselves because no one else can do it for us. As Zuri Stone said, “It has to start on a personal level. It has to start with our conversations and the way we treat each other.” Stop pointing fingers and take responsibility for the fact that we, including minorities, do this to each other and we do it every single day.
As a University and a country we have come a long way in terms of acceptance but now we have to do more than just accept those that are different from us. We have to embrace them and learn from them. Until we do, the big, booming elephant in the room will only get bigger and the issues will only get worse. It’s time to wake up, West Chester.
Cassie Juste is a second year student at West Chester University. She can be reached at CJ723999@wcupa.edu.