The Blacks, the Gays, and the Atheists
Published: Monday, September 26, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 26, 2011 15:09
One of the most common complaints I hear about Furman is its general lack of diversity. It's a pretty legitimate complaint. Furman is overwhelmingly white, conservative, Christian, straight, the list goes on. And so for anyone who doesn't fall into one of those categories, Furman is kind of terrifying.
The overbearing homogeneity of Furman's student body can be oppressive. It's difficult to pop your head out of your neatly assigned box to let people know exactly who you are. And why you are that way. And why that's okay. And not just okay, but rather awesome.
Too often at Furman I feel penned in by labels. At semi-recent meeting of several minority groups, someone remarked that the student body might not care what we have to say because we were just "the blacks, the gays, and the atheists." Our opinions, our expressions of dissent, can be shoved aside just because we're the minorities.
This is not okay. We may be nearly invisible on campus, but we are not voiceless. Our small numbers make us easily ignored though, especially since very few people seem to care what we have to say.
It doesn't have to be this way though. Furman may not have much diversity, but it is there. (We're the ones in the back jumping up and down and waving our arms ineffectually.) What we need to do is broaden the campus dialogue. Not just in CLPs and other events (though increased participation in multicultural events would be nice, wink wink nudge nudge), but in all aspects of our lives.
Furman is such a divided campus. People hang out with other people just like them. We even separate ourselves based on our majors, with the Great Fountain Divide between the sciences and humanities. It is natural to seek the company of people who act, think, and look like you. It validates your opinion of yourself. Makes you feel special. Hey look, everyone agrees with me!
We as a community need to move on from this habit. Academic growth is not the only kind of learning school should provide. As long as we keep to our own little groups, only joining organizations that match the mold we're made of, Furman will continue to feel homogenous and stultifying. We need to explore the diversity we have, to make it part of everyday life, not something one occasionally encounters in the back of the library or lurking by shadowy benches late at night. We minorities are grade-a lurkers.
To do this, we all need to go outside our comfort zones. Every single one of us. Most student organizations are open to everyone, regardless if you match their typical student member. Go to one that interests you, that you've been curious about, and that you were always a little wary of joining. I promise no one is going to kick you out. And you just might love it.
Heck, I'm a straight, white atheist, and I'm hugely involved in EROS, on the executive board of the NAACP, and devoted follower of FUGE. I've made a ton of friends that I never would have met if I just kept to my SoFI meetings and English classes. And I've learned a lot about more things than I could possibly categorize. It's totally awesome.
We can change the environment of Furman for the better by engaging in dialogue with different people, by opening our minds, and by not shoving minority students into a corner to hang out with ourselves. Everyone here has something to offer. So let's start talking to each other.
Michelle Cote, ‘12, is an English major