In the editorial section of the February edition of the Chronicle, Andrew Vazzano wrote about the overuse of the term “diversity” and how that term and its use by different organizations and people – specifically cultural organizations like the Black Student Union and Multicultural Affairs – seem to divide our community rather than unite. He finds that culture/ethnic specific organizations seem to be based on or promote exclusivity rather than inclusivity, and we have to assume he is speaking of all the groups on Quinnipiac’s campus, even though the Black Student Union was the only student operated organization named.
As representatives of the Black Student Union we have to disagree with much of what was stated in the article about the BSU, cultural organizations in general, and our efforts in making Quinnipiac University a more “diverse” community. It is quite unfortunate that Mr. Vazzano finds these groups to be of an exclusive and separatist nature, but we find that cultural organizations and the Office of Multicultural Affairs work towards diversifying our community. The Black Student Union for example has come together to celebrate black culture, and to educate ourselves and others about the many unique elements that make up the numerous cultures and ethnicities grouped under the term “black.” It is our hope that by sharing our differences as well as similarities that people will find parts of our culture interesting, and will therefore, be more open to embracing the differences of people and less likely to push away what is foreign and misunderstood. We can only speak for ourselves, but we believe other organizations have adopted a similar, if not the same, mission. We would like everyone to realize that the Black Student Union is not just for black students. BSU and other groups (to the best of our knowledge) do not turn members away for being of a different ethnicity -so how we got the connotation of being exclusive groups is beyond us. Perhaps people use that as an excuse for not engaging or opening themselves up to learning about a culture that is not necessarily their own. Any and all individuals are invited to join our weekly meetings and events. We also encourage you to participate in other organizations, especially the Multicultural Affairs Committee, which holding true to its name, represents a wide range of cultures.
Returning to the editorial, what particularly struck us about Mr. Vazzano’s comments were his references to Black History Month and Black Entertainment Television. Mr. Vazzano asks how Quinnipiac would feel if “White History Month” was celebrated and “White Entertainment Television” was founded, when in actuality both those things exist and have existed for quite some time. NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and so many more could all be considered “White Entertainment Television.” BET and similar television networks are few in number when compared to the numerous television stations primarily based on white entertainment. And once again, Mr. Vazzano makes no mention of other networks that focus on specific cultures like Telemundo or Asian Television Networks. Black Entertainment Television, and television networks like it, were started to provide opportunities to people of color who desired to be actors, directors, writers, producers but were hindered from entering the entertainment industry because the minimal opportunities available to people of color were already filled, or significantly less rewarding than those offered to their white counterparts.
As for the comment in reference to Black History Month, we honestly ask if people believe “white history” is missing in this nation. White history is celebrated and taught every month – including February. President’s Day, for example, has been dedicated to the memory of those who have held the highest office in America which up until this past November, has only been occupied by white American males. That portion of our nation’s history is necessary and important, but so are Black history, Native American history, Latino-American history, Asian American history, and the history of all the people who have made America what it is today. In a recent New York Times article about the underrepresentation of black history in school curriculums, Manny Marable, a Columbia University professor of history and public affairs, states in regards to black history, “It is not just for black people. You can’t teach the history of this country effectively without teaching the contributions and experiences of black people.” The fact that the contribution of black Americans has either been altogether overlooked or marginalized to short passages in our textbooks, gives enough cause for a Black History Month. We need to know that African-Americans have played a significant role in getting America to where it is now; we were and are more than slaves and delinquents, which for so long has been all we were led to believe about African-Americans. Now with Barack Obama in office the list of national leaders will begin to mirror the diversity within this nation, and hopefully American history as it is taught and discussed will highlight the ethnicities and cultures within this nation equally. Then, perhaps, people will no longer have to wait for a particular month in order to learn about the significance of a certain group of people in American history.
Mr. Vazzano wants us to move beyond racial lines or divides, and that is something many of us desire. Too much focus on race can distract people from uniting at times, but we do not see how the student organizations and our collective efforts to bringing about diversity awareness are causing disunity. Mr. Vazzano says that if we can blur the lines that “separate” us all, we would be better off as a world. While we agree that differences should not be highlighted as a way of isolating or segregating, we do not think that the differences should be ignored or “played down” -they should be appreciated, learned from and celebrated. That is what inclusion is all about. Diversity is not about changing people or trying to make them more alike, but as we have stated before, it is about embracing people and their differences.
Unfortunately, the day has not come when we are all able to live harmoniously with one another. Blatant prejudices, inequalities and injustices continue to exist in the world, but we hope that people will continue to make a conscious effort to work towards that day of complete unity. One thing is for certain, that day will not come any sooner if we forget about diversity.
— The Black Student Union