Letter to the editor
| 2/23/14 8:42pm
To the editor:
In light of recent events, I am definitely in favor of more intercultural training and curricula, both early in a student’s experience here at Grand Valley and as a possible graduation requirement. This intercultural training ideally should also include issues of sexuality and gender as well as race. The idea of bias incident reporting is a nice enough one, and it’s one I’m glad we have, but I feel like incident reporting — purely for statistical purposes, as far as I can tell — simply doesn’t go far enough. There were real consequences when the student graffitied that donor recognition plaque on the library, for sure, but when someone writes something racist on a whiteboard in a living center? That student gets a stern talking-to and we as Lakers react with some public outrage. Outrage only goes so far, and often doesn’t really result in anything but creating more resentment, fear, and division. We have to channel that energy into “being the change,” to paraphrase Gandhi.
It can’t be the sole responsibility of our students of color, LGBTQ students, Women and Gender studies majors such as myself, and the more activist-minded members of our Laker community — students, faculty, alumni, and the general public among them — to get educated about these issues. It is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone has a stake in speaking up and challenging racism and other forms of discrimination and in resisting the oppressive power structures in our society itself. It is not enough to merely get educated. That makes it sound like education is anything but a lifelong process of change, challenge, and growth. We must get engaged, and remain so. I was thinking about this after attending the discussion program around the viewing of the film ‘Fruitvale Station’ on February 19th. This follows other such programming around the theme of Black History Month, such as the recent program discussing the repercussions of the Trayvon Martin case. I remember thinking, and saying to my roommates when I got home from seeing the film, that the people that really needed to be there, that really needed their eyes opened, simply were not there.
A few other events that I’ve attended in my short time here come to mind, the Men in Action conference last semester among them, even though it had a very great turnout in comparison. The BBGVSU/BQGVSU forum also comes to mind. I was not able to attend due to classes, and as such have heard very little about what was said and what actions are going to be undertaken in its aftermath. The only discussion I’ve really been a part of around it was in my LGBTQ Studies class, and I really credit those students and Dr. DeMuth for being so engaged and vigilant. Something like the BBGVSU/BQGVSU forum ideally needs to occur more than once a semester — once a month, perhaps — to really have any hope of being effective.
I’m not hoping to change the world in four years. I’m not so naive to not know most real, lasting change takes whole lifetimes. Whether classes, studying for exams, jobs, or students just seeing these issues as “not their problem” are to blame for the lack of engagement is not important. What is important is that we must all do this work together, because it benefits us all, and it cannot truly get done any other way. We must strike a balance between the “preparing for the future” aspect of our time here and the “showing our true humanity” aspect. To me, this is as much a preparation for the future as any career-focused education.