Monday, September 24, 2007

People should try to learn about other groups' cultures
By: Anette Lawless

As the old phrase goes, "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Growing up in Wellington, Kan., we must have run out of sticks and stones, because words were the only ammo in town.

Being raised in a multicultural household, my parents taught me well. I knew to respect my elders and to study hard. Yet, one thing I was not taught enough about was the hateful world we live in. I was never prepared for the kids who bullied me at my predominately upper-class, white elementary school. Even after years of confusion and bad words thrust in my face, I still did not know how to handle racism.

Some might argue the United States has moved beyond racism, citing a number of events like the abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even with these successes, problems with diversity are still prevalent - even here at K-State.

K-State has tried to address diversity in a number of ways: through lectures, diversity advocates and funding for minority groups. No matter how much glitter you toss on our purple pride, it will always remain purple, but with a bunch of gunk caked on top.

This university invests a lot of money to give people the appearance of an all-inclusive environment. Take K-State's recruitment page,, for example, where a person will find the face of a minority student on nearly every page. Not to call our administrators crazy, but this campus is hardly diverse.

According to the Registrar's Office, of the 23,141 students enrolled at K-State in 2006, 3,741 of those were minority students - only 16 percent. And of those students, 1,047 were international students.

In 2003, Student Senate tried to remedy the situation through a Diversity Programming Committee, which allocates $150,000 toward large-scale events designed to enhance

Diversity on campus.

While serving as president of the Vietnamese Student Association, my group was one of the groups lucky enough to use this money for our annual New Year's celebration, Tet.

Our club of approximately 15 members received nearly $15,000 for our celebration, and we worked hard to craft a brilliant show. However, no more than 30 students came to celebrate with us (though a good portion of the Manhattan community did instead). Ironically, no member of Student Senate, aside from myself, attended.

No matter how much money K?State tosses at curbing problems with diversity, it is the education about diversity that sets us back.

Diversity is a scary concept. Diversity is all around us. It is important that we take these opportunities to learn about cultural experiences different than our own.

We need to choose our actions wisely, and more importantly, the words we use around others. The United States is considered the melting pot of the world, fusing a mix of different cultures, races and religions. We better soak up as much of it as we can before time runs out and the contents of the pot begin to burn.

Annette Lawless is a fifth-year student in electronic journalism, print journalism, political science and public relations

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