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The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Racial Diversity on Campus is Essential and Should be Celebrated

Victoria+Ware
Abigail Cutlip
Victoria Ware

Racial diversity is a concept that provokes strong contention regarding its importance and value.

As a biracial Black woman who frequently inhabits predominately white spaces, the concept of racial diversity is quite important to me. Diversity is not simply a tactic to appease harbingers of “wokeness,” but, for people of color, racial diversity is something that can genuinely affect their emotional well-being. It’s a unique experience to be the only person of as color in a room. At times, it can be disheartening–not because of any animosity or perceived racial bias from others but because of the innate desire to feel represented.

A lack of diversity can affect a person of color’s self-esteem and perception of their own features. It can make them view themselves as an outlier–not fitting the standards that have been inadvertently set around them. Many are the tales of women of color not feeling as if they fit the conventions of beauty and developing internalized self-criticism and loathing.

Representation may be just a buzzword to some, but, to those who directly face the concept of race on a daily basis, it is something that they long for. To me, racial diversity is based upon the desire to simply be seen and see myself in the world around me.

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The prevailing issue is that inclusion has become overly politicized. Some view efforts to foster diversity and inclusion as unimportant, performative actions that serve only to disrupt the way that society naturally flows.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill in April 2023 that bans public colleges and universities from spending money on programs dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. The following month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a similar bill. Legislation of this nature exemplifies the culture war surrounding diversity.

Curtailing inclusion is not simply accomplished through slashing funding to equity programs but also through the shockingly ongoing practice of book banning and restriction. What was claimed to be an effort to keep obscenity out of the hands of students has resulted in proposals to remove classic books and books that deal with race. After a Miami school required students to receive a permission slip to read books about Black history, DeSantis on Thursday, Feb. 15, announced he is calling on the Florida legislature to reform the system of challenging books. He said that books like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” should not be challenged, contradicting his previous position on the issue last year.

The problem with these arguments about diversity is those in opposition are most likely people who are surrounded by others who look like them. Dismissing diversity in academic settings and not seeing the point in showcasing Black stories is egregious.

People who are against inclusion are only able to see the world from their perspective. They don’t put themselves in the mindset of a student of color who is questioning their self-worth and beauty compared to their white classmates. They don’t allow themselves to think about Black students who have an internal and ancestral yearning to hear their history and the accomplishments of their forefathers. To understand diversity, one must tap into empathy and see the world from the eyes of a young person of color grappling with their identity and where they fit in within broader society.

Black people, in particular, have so many negative stereotypes and misrepresentations they must combat to gain traction in academic settings. Therefore, there is an innate desire within us to simply see others on campus who look like us. It sounds incredibly trivial, but it’s true. It’s difficult to put into words, but, as a Black woman, there is an internal sense of empowerment or security when I see other people of color on campus or when I get to be in class with another person of color. It is simply the act of seeing someone like me–someone who has probably felt the same emotions that I have as a person of color. For so long, people of color were shunned from education, so being able to be in an academic environment with those who look like us is uplifting.

Efforts to spur diversity on college campuses are essential and should be encouraged. In an ideal world, the color of a person’s skin wouldn’t be given a second thought. Cultural differences would be celebrated rather than scrutinized. However, as a whole, we are not at that point. Racial diversity is needed because of the history of racism and subjugation people of color have had to endure. On college campuses, inclusion is important because the environment should be representative of the world around us.

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