Friday, May 27, 2005

More minority students does not equal diversity 

So says a student at St. Olaf in yesterday's Pioneer Press (free registration required). Enrolled in a course in Latin American history, she discovered:
With six multiracial students in class, we heard about a personal example or experience relating to our topic nearly every day. For a while, everyone appreciated having these real-life examples of oppression in Latin American countries and of issues we discussed.

Soon, however, a division grew in our little classroom. I, and others, began to notice how quickly minority students criticized white students for daring to rationalize the actions of historical Europeans and Americans. This criticism happened only a few times, but the threat of attack was enough to instill a fear of speaking one's mind.

In contrast, white students regularly left inflammatory comments by these same multicultural students unanswered for fear that as a nonminority contradicting a minority they might sound racist. At one point, a student of Latin American heritage even went so far to say that minorities deal better with power because they have more sensitivity toward the rights of others.

When did one's ability to lead become based on what happened to their ancestors hundreds of years ago versus their intelligence and leadership skills today?
But worse is the problem that spreads outside the classroom at St. Olaf.
Last year, one minority student continuously bullied a first-year Asian student who had been adopted by white parents at a young age because "[she] couldn't even speak Korean � [she's] not really Asian." This tormented student transferred at the end of last year to escape persecution. I've also heard of another student who has an on-going feud with some of the multicultural students because they believe he is "white-washed" and not adequately connected with his roots.
Those stories are not at all uncommon on campuses in America these days. Most of the arguments for diversity on campus is that it's good for majority students to be exposed to minority students. It doesn't appear to be as good for the minority students themselves.