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OPINION: Diversity is for White People

One of the ideas that is not discussed widely at Haverford is the goal of “diversity.” Views of diversity on campus are varied, from those who view it as a hindrance to community cohesion to those who view it as the community’s only redeeming characteristic. A component inherent in many people’s views is a stance promoting the use of people of minority identities as instruments to benefit people of majority identities.

The administration, among others, says that “diversity” should be fostered because it allows people to be exposed to ways of thinking and being that are different from theirs. This implicitly erases people of color and all other marginalized groups. People of racial and ethnic minorities are literally surrounded at (almost) all times by ways of thinking and being that are different from theirs. A defining part of the experience of a member of a marginalized minority is being exposed, through media and popular cultural motifs, of a majority-oriented way of thinking. While a South Asian American student like me might choose, for example, to limit television consumption strictly to Zee TV and Bollywood movies, that student can’t choose not to see white-oriented advertisements or posts to social media, much less American- or European-centric readings and assignments in class.

It takes little mental effort to realize that the framework for diversity used by the administration primarily takes into account the needs and desires of white students—especially those of upper classes and homogeneous social backgrounds—and uses students of color as “teaching moments” and, in general, instruments for white people’s educational enrichment.

At the same time, at Haverford, students of minority identities are placed in an environment that is opponential and adversarial. “Ways of thinking and being that are different from theirs” surround minority students; often, peers who think and act differently are inadvertently or deliberately hurtful because of those ways of thinking and being or their correlates.

At the recent discussion jointly hosted by TIDE and Honor Council on race in the context of the Honor Code, many of my peers cited racist remarks directed at them or their peers, and a pressure from their friends and classmates not to confront the people who made the remarks—they weren’t meant to be racist, after all. However, my classmates were shaken by the comments; at best, they felt alienated and out of place—at worst, they felt threatened and endangered.

Hurt caused by different ways of thinking and being is not limited to racism, however. As a member of the Trans* Inclusivity Committee, I have heard several of my peers’ testimonies of faculty, staff, and students deliberately misgendering Haverford students or ignoring their gender identity because their ways of thinking and being did not include the possibility of transgender or genderqueer students coming to Haverford and participating in in student life here.

Finally, students who come to Haverford who grew up in contexts that did not afford them the opportunities that most Haverford students have had are hurt by a current climate that does not address their unique needs. In meetings for the OMA’s rally, my classmates expressed many needs—such as career and academic counseling, protection from the disrespect of their peers, and basic representation in the faculty, staff, and curriculum—that are still not met, setting them back in relation to my peers for whom those needs and desires are met.

Minority students are not benefited by talk of “diversity.” The majority is. Until minority students are recognized as real people—not pawns—with needs as important and vital as those of white students, we won’t be “equal.”

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