Whites will never be able to experience life from that of minorities: it’s a fact. Racism was not washed out in the 1960s, despite what many believe. It’s a fact that racism is a part of our culture, even if it is not as strong as it was 40 years ago. It’s a fact that we can not separate West Chester University from the factors of our society and culture. Yes, there is a degree of racism on this campus: it’s a fact. However, people perceive it at different levels. In interviewing students and faculty of different backgrounds and races, maybe this campus, while diverse, is not addressing this issue. While there is a larger minority population here than in some of the hometowns of many of the students who attend here, there is much more diversity on different campuses just a half hour from here.
“This campus really is not that diverse; you can see it in the separation of groups, people of the same ethnicity or race usually stick together because that is what they are comfortable with. Some students feel intimidated to speak to someone of the other group. It seems like you either fit into a group or not and you know where you stand in relation to the groups,” freshman Shaneka Roberts said.
Why do so many students choose to attend West Chester University? There are 12,000 very diverse students on this campus with over 12,000 different perspectives when you include faculty. Are all being represented equally? Is that even possible? Probably not, but the university can strive to can ensure that everyone feels comfortable at West Chester.
“I truly regret coming to West Chester every day. I feel that there is enough racism on campus for parents of students who are black or of ethnicity to be concerned. It seems no matter how educated minorities become – no matter how much of a model citizen blacks strive to be – we will never be seen as equal citizens in this country or on our college campuses,” said senior Mike de’ Shawn J. Sells.
Yet not all students see it this way: everyone sees this issue from a different perspective, all though most agree there is room to grow.
“I personally don’t feel that there is any significant amount of racism on campus, and what there is comes from assumption. One time I was approached by an African-American man and [he] assumed just because I was white I wouldn’t give him the time of day. In fact, he tried to use black history against me as if I didn’t know it. Turns out I knew more than he did. Races stick together because that is who they identify with. At times I feel there is an uneasiness among the races and I feel that to help reduce it, perhaps encourage more intercultural activities that are appealing, but I don’t think it should be forced,” said freshman Jess Madeira.
Many students are not comfortable and do not feel safe from discrimination. Are there really enough opportunities for interaction between the minorities and the dominant white population here on this campus? Some students have experienced outright discrimination, but overall, the more common problem is a very clear distinction and seperation of the races in everyday life.
“Being a black female student is very challenging, I feel like I have to prove myself as capable in every situation. When I do achieve my goals, I know I did that; I had to prove myself, I earned it. My culture fuels me. It’s important for African-Americans to know their history and know they are beautiful, no matter what the stereotype or society says. Whites rarely know what it’s like to be the minority, I think that everyone should be required to take a course on racial relational course to be aware and that each organization should be responsible for creating events for cultural diversity for true interaction between the races and cultures, to have students sit down and discuss this issue,” said freshman Shaneka Roberts
Some students still do not know how to approach those of different backgrounds. There are certainly examples of intermixing of the cultures on campus, but in some senses that seems minimal compared to the way in which some of the minority population at West Chester feel almost as though blacks are more part of a club than an accepted part of the West Chester culture.
In interviewing black students, they sometimes find that other students give them looks or respond in discussions without even realizing that some of their actions or responses might be offensive to other students, yet how can these students be blamed for their behaviors that they don’t even realize that they are doing or that have been implanted in them through their upbringing?
“The racial relation issue on campus is no different than in our society,” said black graduate student Carl Morrow. “People’s attitudes are perceived through previous interactions and the media. I think there is a bias against blacks in general, although colleges are the most liberal and tolerant community in our society in general. We have the choice to choose between focusing on how other(s) think of us or how we think of ourselves. We have issues, we don’t want to speak or question for being afraid that they will look racial or uneducated. A lot has to do with each individual’s comfort zone. What one may experience as far as discrimination does not hold true across the nation in every situation; we need to be more scientific for the real answers to what degree discrimination is a problem although it is evident that there is some uneasiness between races, and that does need to be addressed. The message to society is clean up your act, there are issues, but there are opportunities, another question is ‘Are blacks maximizing their opportunities?’,” he said.
As is the case with any approach to a cultural issue and a sense of being uncomfortable, people try to find a party to blame but many students are tired of blaming: they want solutions. Why are some students uncomfortable on our campus and how can this be changed? Students come to college to prepare themselves for the ‘real’ world. This is a real world issue. This is an issue that needs to be addressed on this campus and it needs to be addressed now.
It would be nice to think that all students attending West Chester could feel comfortable and not feel that they will be subjected to discrimination. This feeling of being uncomfortable is present in the classrooms, selection of majors, events, even walking around campus and riding the elevators.
“Sadly, situations of racial discrimination do occur, even on this campus. I have not personally been directly affected by racism on campus, and there have been times when professors seemed almost surprised I knew anything about the subjects of discussion when I was the only minority student in the room. West Chester University definitely needs to help in finding ways to make this school more appreciative of diversity. Multicultural groups and events are helpful tools set in place by the University and students, but their productivity is limited to whoever comes out. Everyday situations really change people’s perspectives of life and the world around us,” freshman Sean Tripline said.
Who is responsible to create proactive environments and events between the different cultures and races on this campus so that some productive interaction can take place and the campus can continue to grow and become a more comfortable environment for all of the West Chester students?
Some students suggest every organization on campus has a responsibility to create this atmosphere, especially the Multicultural Center which only began two months ago after trying to open for 10 years. The role of the multicultural center is to serve as a home base for coordination of programs, services and referrals for all students and other members of the university community to enhance awareness and appreciation of diversity.
“Last year, a racial round-table was set-up and we had a pretty good turn out of over
20 students to discuss the issue of racial relations on campus. I feel the students learned a lot and were able to openly discuss the issue. If students are interested we could have another round-table discussion so that students could meet openly and discuss the issue,” said Assistant Director of the Multicultural Center, Kendrick Mickens.
Racial relations are still an issue on this campus and needs to be continually addressed.