By Brandi Williams
The Oklahoma Christian University Student Government Association recently held a town hall meeting to discuss the culture and climate of campus including racial issues. The town hall meeting was much needed in my opinion because race is a topic that Christians, and people in general, tend to avoid.
We would rather not offend people, and by trying not to offend others we end up becoming oblivious to the important issues. When we avoid issues such as race we become ignorant. Unfortunately, we have often become complacent in our ignorance.
Our ignorance isn’t always conscious; some people just aren’t familiar with diversity. Churches, schools and neighborhoods are racially divided; racial division in our society is “normal.” People find it more comforting to surround themselves with other people who have something in common with them. We gravitate towards people who share our culture. However, a problem manifests when we refuse to associate or learn about other cultures.
One of the questions at the town hall was, “Would racial relations at OC be better if black history/minority histories were taught as equal to white/American History?” Often I have had non-black friends ask me why there isn’t a white history month or white history class. My response has always been the same. Every month, “white history” is discussed. Every history class I have ever taken has been a white history class.
Black history month is the time when race is discussed and we hear stories about the civil rights movement. Before February and after February these issues normally aren’t discussed. African-American studies classes are taught as electives, and in a U.S. history class all of black culture and minority culture is usually summed up into one slide presentation.
When we at Oklahoma Christian get to the point when we don’t wait until February to talk about race, and where our U.S. history classes start to cover all the cultures as equal then I think it will be easier to approach race as an issue. I also feel like it is important for me to clarify that race isn’t just a white versus black issue. There have been incidents at Oklahoma Christian where our international students have felt looked down upon and mistreated because they were seen as different.
I have witnessed many interactions where I had to intervene. In one case, someone assumed an African student was poor because of the stereotypes we have learned from that continent. In another case, someone asked a Hispanic student if they were an “anchor baby.” In another case, someone jokingly said a Middle Eastern student was a terrorist or knew terrorists, while another person gave strange looks to a Middle Eastern woman dressed in traditional attire.
We as cultures should embrace our differences. America is known for being diverse; it is what makes us great and unique. Oklahoma Christian isn’t diverse in the sense that all races are equally represented, but we do have multiple ethnicities and cultures at our university.
I thank Oklahoma Christian SGA for having the town hall meeting and bringing light to these difficult issues that aren’t normally discussed. I hope we can continue on this path and eventually get comfortable with our differences.
Brandi Williams is a junior at Oklahoma Christian University.