Suffering in Sameness

Rina Cakrani, Columnist

There is so much talk here about how diversity matters and how Whitman has been trying to make the community more diverse by including more minorities and international students in the past few years. Unfortunately, these efforts don’t seem enough, especially when you look at the statistics related to the student body. 72 percent of Whitman students identify as white/Caucasian. The number wouldn’t be surprising since this is an elite small private liberal arts college, but it goes against all the claims by the school for the increasing efforts for more diversity from year to year.

Numbers are not all that show lack of diversity. The general vibe on campus also highlights the uniform student body. There is a reason why the joke name for the school is ‘Whiteman.’ Those who are white students might not really feel it, but several international students or students belonging to racial minorities that I have spoken to feel the ‘whiteness’ in this school.

Unfortunately, because they are so few and scattered all around the campus, it is hard for them to feel like their race or ethnicity is properly represented in the school and that they too matter. Some of them even feel like the ‘whiteness’ in the school is trying to whitewash them and turn them into ‘one of them.’ They feel that they should try to act like the majority represented in the school, if they want to feel accepted in the Whitman community.

Perhaps some people who are part of the majority in the school would ask: ‘why should we have diversity, why does it matter so much?’ There are many reasons why diversity matters in a college campus. For many students who have been raised in an only-white community, interaction with other ethnic and race backgrounds would expand worldliness and make them aware of other communities and other life stories. It is usually said that what you learn outside the classroom is as important as what you learn inside the classroom. Well, this is definitely one of those opportunities. Just by talking to more diverse students, you feel like you can traveling without having to go anywhere. Isn’t it boring to have friends who share the same background and life stories as you?

The ability to engage with different people of different cultures would prepare you better to face the world tomorrow and in your future jobs when you graduate college. Not only do you learn how to feel comfortable and properly engage with people that are different from you, but you also learn new perspectives and views. Most importantly, you learn how to get out of an ethnocentric or egocentric viewpoint, which enriches you and makes you a better student and human being. Above all else, diversity teaches you respect for people that are different from you and not to ever try to make them fit you or your world views.