Division of Inclusion and Equity continues to be relevant
Grand Valley State University's Division of Inclusion and Equity will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on Thursday, Feb. 8. During the department's existence at the university, its staff has created initiatives and provided resources to support minority and underrepresented students on campus. This department does not simply exist to make GVSU appear more welcoming and progressive to the outside world. On the contrary, the Division of Inclusion and Equity continues to meet the very real need to spread information, promote intercultural understanding and confront hatred directed toward different people groups.
In a perfect world, GVSU wouldn't need the Division of Inclusion and Equity at all. But we don't live in a perfect world, and the need for this department has only grown in recent years and in light of recent events. For example, the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump have arguably served to invigorate and embolden white nationalists and their brothers in the so-called alt-right movement who had previously been flying quietly under the radar. Just earlier this month in Howell, Michigan, flyers for the white supremacist group Patriot Front were posted downtown in two separate incidents: first on car windshields of people attending a fundraising event for girls in India and again before the "March Against Fear" that was organized to protest this insidious spread of white nationalist ideals.
In November 2017, East Grand Rapids also saw white nationalist messages posted around. These flyers read, "It's Okay To Be White," and many had pictures of Trump on the front, as well as a website for the alt-right movement listed. These flyers were intentionally posted over "Black Lives Matter" signs and under the windshield wipers of cars in the area. This led to many residents feeling violated and upset. One resident even expressed that these signs made the community feel less inclusive, creating an uncomfortable environment and making some residents feel unwelcome.
As long as such exclusionary ideologies persist (and there are many others based on racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., that deserve their own separate commentary), we will need departments like the Division of Inclusion and Equity. Sadly, the prevailing thought that many people have when they see initiatives that deal with inclusion is that their own rights are being infringed upon. But the reality is that creating inclusive environments is beneficial for all.
By working toward making GVSU an inclusive environment, the Division of Inclusion and Equity makes GVSU an intrinsically better place. While several advancements have been made, actions that promote one race over another or that propagate divisive rhetoric (often coming from politicians and legislators) remind us of how far we still have to go. By being inclusive and striving for equity, we can continue to make that progress.