Image by Falon Opsahl
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in a special section on race in the Graphic.
Why do we not classify people based on the shape of their bellybuttons? Innies, anyone? Why not be team innie or team outie? Instead, we characterize by skin color and hair type and assign our ideas about culture to physical characteristics.
This may seem relatively harmless until it is translated onto a campus that allows for a Blackface incident and arguably cultural appropriations in Songfest. The bottom line is: People are uncomfortable, and racial tension is real, even if we are as blessed as we claim to be.
Where does this put us? In a society that prides itself on constantly being politically correct, we find ourselves in the Pepperdine community that advocates Christ-like love. While this should make for a racism-free campus, it simply does not.
Racism on campus is rarely outright, but usually a subtle understanding that certain cultures are inferior to others, and this attitude is intricately woven into our vernacular and cultural values. These nuances are as subtle as recognizing “untamed” afros as “unprofessional.” Unfortunately, since people who are alike tend to stay together, what our campus is left with is informal segregation in Greek life and social stratification in general.
We all have friends who are international who, by virtue of being in our social circle, assure us that we are not racists and indeed have an understanding of diversity. But this is not enough.
In addition, the Freedom Wall on campus may be an effort toward systematically including racial topics into discussion. While that is admirable, it is indicative of the fact that the campus at large is not a safe area for discussion of racial and cultural issues, so much so that a wall has to be dedicated toward discourse on diversity.
What does properly addressing racial issues even look like at Pepperdine? Is it even possible, given that diversity statistics of the student body are nowhere near representative of California? I think so, but it has to start with curriculum.
Structurally, Pepperdine needs to mandate GE courses away from Greco-Roman tradition and toward Eastern, African and African American traditions, so that we are a campus that structurally promotes racial and cultural understanding. I am a firm believer that culture follows institutional structure, and if courses reflected racial and cultural sensibility, the Pepperdine community would be in a better position to discuss racial issues adequately with minimal appropriation.
However, until that time comes, the responsibility for racial inclusion should not be only on minority students. We as a community must come together to address racial issues regardless of whether or not sit-ins occur. That is the bottom line.
Follow Justina Huang on Twitter: @huanderwoman