Erica Parker expressed it best when she said, “Don’t talk about it – be about it,” in the NAACP diversity topic forum Sept. 29. The forum called for finding strategies for bringing more diversity to campus, getting diverse voices heard and, most importantly, having those diverse voices comfortably enjoy their college experience at TCU. Although I couldn’t agree more with Parker’s statement, right now I can’t help but represent a group on campus whose voices are being somewhat stifled and, as a result, under heard.
Question this: Who is it that’s complaining about diversity?
For the most part, it’s not the white population complaining, and I repeat for the most part, about the issue of diversity. That group isn’t complaining because it represents 76.9 percent of TCU’s population, so they’ve most probably found a community.
What about the larger minorities on campus?
Yes, some students struggle to see change, and in many cases have implemented change – but in reality, they still share the luxury of a common background with numerous others on campus. So they have the choice of whether to stand with or lean on a group, even when it comes to this issue of diversity.
All of which is not to say that the comfort of ethnic grouping is a bad thing, which I’ll also openly admit that I envy, and couldn’t envy it more as I sometimes pass by them on campus and think, “I miss sharing that bond with my loud, vibrant, Arab society.”
So what about the people that are here now and don’t have that advantage?
I am talking about international students – students that. in many cases, share a similar background with one, or possibly two, other students.
I, for example, represent the Arab population on campus who make up less than .05 percent of the student body. As far as how many other Bahrainis there are on campus, there’s no need to get your calculators out. The answer is two. Truth is, international students represent an even smaller population than ethnic minorities. Just in fun, if there were such a word to describe such groups at TCU, it would be “micro-minorities.”
Then again, the issue of diversity extends far beyond race, creed or citizenship. It’s our differences that set us apart and make us interesting.
These differences, however, need to be embraced, minorities and “micro-minorities” alike. Getting the message across is a beginning, but what’s the use of getting the message across and stopping there? Some will do their part, but let’s not forget that not everyone is blessed with the sort of extroverted quality that would allow them to walk up to someone different and say, “Hello.”
Unfortunately, sometimes hello is where the conversation ends.
Learning to embrace other people’s differences so they too can fit into their comfort zone, no matter their color, accent, creed, gender, social background and the list goes on, is crucial to building a true community at TCU.
Tolerance, like a handshake, goes both ways. It’s you that can begin to make a difference, as an individual, with what’s around you.
No matter who you represent, be open to what’s different. If we want to see an external change, we must begin with internal change. And that’s one step toward working on a solution to this issue we face on campus. Finally, it takes two to get the handshake going.
May Neama is a finance and marketing major from the Kingdom of Bahrain.