Wednesday, July 14, 2010

life lesson #8625

The administration at the University of California constantly preaches about how diverse the student population is. How can a university that has a 2% population of African Americans, < 1% population of Native Americans, and a population of Asian/Asian American and Caucasian combined that accounts for over half of the student population be considered diverse? Programs are apparently in place to recruit and retain students that are underrepresented on campus. My place of employment happens to be one of those resources.

The mission of the Cross Cultural Center is geared toward creating harmony between groups that are historically opposed to each other, for many different reasons. And many people say or think that because the CCC exist, there is an automatic sense of diversity on campus. When in fact, most students have never even heard of it, or they don't know where to find it on campus. This is not to say that the CCC isn't working, because I believe that many students have found the CCC to be a home away from home. But I still know a lot of people that stick to only their ethnic group, people that have the same sexual orientation, or share other identity in which they have in common.

I can't really knock these people because I have been one of them. Although my workplace is one that promotes diversity and cultural awareness, most of the people I hang out with are of African descent. It's where I feel most comfortable. Why, you ask? I grew up in a predominately African American neighborhood for most of my life. I've attended schools where at least fifty percent of the student population is African or African American. I am trying to expand my horizons. It's a work in progress. Most of my friends that are not of African descent have been made because of some type of protest on my campus, a mutli/cross-cultural event or some type of club collaboration. Other than that, I usually don't feel comfortable starting up a casual conversation with people that don't share the same ethnic background.

Before my program in Japan began, I figured I would probably be the only Black student. I was anxious about not being able to relate to people. I thought finding things in common would be more difficult. I thought our interest would be different. Fortunately, my experience has been more pleasant than expected. There are a few things I would like to change. I will definitely suggest some PEACE training for a few folks before this is over. [PEACE training for those that do not know is a Peer Education program on campus that I am involved in. We facilitate discussions for groups on racism, privilege, the relationship between race, gender and sexuality.]

But I have found more common ground than I do with some Black folks I have met in my lifetime. I feel like this shouldn't be new to me, but I think being in my safe bubble of African Americans and people that understand me because they also identify with being a person of color, has taken me out of the world as a whole. I'm glad I got to step out.

Tonight, my roommates and a few other people in the program kind of touched on this during casual conversation (which sparked this blog post). I expressed how I don't know many people outside of my bubble and they can relate (something in common). We're committed to breaking those boundaries. I guess I'm able to make change outside of my safe space called the CCC. They have trained me well.

And I must admit, although I was a little homesick, I'm really happy I enrolled in this program. Otherwise, I probably would have never met 21 very diverse, talented and amazing college students from my own university and a couple other sister universities. During orientation, my professor talked about how we would become a family. I disregarded that at the beginning but it really does feel like we all get along well like a little family, even though I've only known these people for about three weeks. I think because the program is only 4 weeks, we had to open up much more quickly. I like it. I've met some people that I'd love to build a friendship with.


It's a good look!

And I should be sleeping now because I have to leave for a field trip at 7:45 am.

Peace & Love,

p.s. that life lesson number is totally made up.

1 comment:

crystalpchau said...

thanks for sharing your experiences and ponderings! I especially agree with how interacting via groups, protests, or campus-wide events is what brings people together--at least, that was my experience in college too.

It's true what you write--it's a balance between putting ourselves in places and communities so we can better know/investigate/understand our ethnic identities and who WE are, and stepping outside the bubble to learn from others outside who we're familiar with. But without first knowing our identities, i imagine it'd be difficult to appreciate and really value the distinctives of others.

This post really sparks interesting discussions, and i wonder what other people's experiences have been as well. Love reading your entries--keep posting!

When you get back, would love to hear more about your thoughts on how to break the boundaries! What would this look like on a macro level? Can it be taught? Or only personally experienced on an individual level? hrmm many ponderings...