Seeking unity amongst diversity

By Catherine Dilworth
November 1, 2001

Justine DiFilippo

Although Cabrini has increased it’s minority enrollment, Shirley Dixon, the college’s coordinator for diversity said the college still has a long way to go.

In recent years college enrollment has risen to unparalleled levels. Most students enter college not only for the classroom experience, but also for various external social factors. Stable environments are conducive to education and typically include elements such as tolerance and acceptance of other cultures. An environment void of such elements often is detrimental to the social, emotional and educational growth of students.

“During the past few years, we have made some strides in our efforts to make certain that African Americans and others of color have equal access to our campus. Yet, we have a long way to go. I have witnessed that racism is much more ingrained into society then we would like to admit,” Shirley Dixon, coordinator of the office of diversity initiatives/student liaison for service searning, said. “Racism exists every where. Cabrini is not exempt from this,” Dixon said.

Dixon said racism is a bad thing, “even though I am an African-American who has not experienced racism on this campus or in my personal life, my personal beliefs destroy any concepts of ‘This race is better than that race.’ I believe nothing good can come from that type of thinking.”

Multiracial people experience racism also. “What are you?” Chrissy Walk, a student at Penn State University, said. “It’s a rude question, to be sure, when I know that someone is addressing my ethnic heritage. Yet, it’s one that I hear all the time, from any number of people; the checker at the grocery store, random passers-by admiring my child, a new co-worker, even an old friend who never got around to asking me the fated question before. It seems that people feel much more comfortable asking about my ethnic heritage than I do explaining it,” Walk said.

“We don’t have the benefit of fitting in to the well-defined categories of Caucasoid, Negroid and Mongoloid. (In some cases, we may fit into all three of those), Walk said. Walk is black, white, Hispanic and Italian.

“Cablinasian” is the way Tiger Woods, the golf star, describes himself. Woods is one quarter black, one quarter Thai, one quarter Chinese, one eighth white and one eighth American Indian.

“I go to a college that has a lot of diversity,” Kenya Washington said. Kenya Washington is a black student who attends Philadelphia Community College. “I never experienced racism at my school.”

“I fit in with all kinds of people,” Lucy Scott, a black Penn State student, said. “I don’t go looking for my own race at a social get together per se, because I am comfortable with myself.”

“I go to Temple University, and have had to attend main campus as well as Ambler campus,” Habiba King said, a black student at Temple University. “At Temple Ambler there is less diversity and I sometime feel uncomfortable because I don’t come from a white-collar background. Main campus is such a melting pot that I feel free to express myself and I learn more from other ethnicity instead of being so limited. Schools with low diversity can be closed minded in some predicaments.’

“Yes, racism exists at Cabrini,” Sophomore Aking Beverly said. “Racism is not directly in your face, but it is in attitude when passerby won’t look you in the eye or smile. I ask myself why our sports teams are predominantly minorities. Is that their only purpose, to play sports? When 90 percent of blacks in the sophomore class leave there is something wrong.”

“I believe racism exists in the world and Cabrini is no exception,” a source, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “Last year a black student put on a mask, scared a girl and was booted off campus immediately. The masked man was black. This girl had been raped before yet the masked man did not know this. We have students here with nine and 10 write-ups that play sports, who still reside on campus. I will be the first to admit that blacks get special treatment for tuition, but is it truly for the minority or to make the school look more diverse. Do you wish to prove you’re not racist by admitting minorities in to your school? Give me an opportunity because I deserve it, not because of something I had no control over. It is a joke.”

The first steps to the improvement of education for African-Americans and the desegregation of the school system were the reforms implemented in the 1950s beginning with the court case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Thurgood Marshall argued in front of the Supreme Court that black parents in several states had their rights violated by the basic segregation in education law, due to the fact that the law in itself keeps them from having equal educational opportunities. Although Marshall won his case, the ruling for equality in schools was ignored by public schools until the 1960s. The second major landmark in eliminating racism and discrimination was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act required the elimination of segregation in schools and colleges and created a commission to outlaw job discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion or national origin. The act had the effect of some integration, but other educators took it as an opportunity to close down Black schools and fire teachers in the name of equality.

“I had to grow up with the stares from people,” Theresa Walk, Chrissy Walk’s mother, said. “To make the issue even more complicated, it’s still not clear whether the days of the ‘one-drop rule’ really are gone.” The one-drop rule refers to the early American concept that one drop of African-American blood made one an African-American. “While many of us are not satisfied with denying any part of our heritage in favor of making things simpler for others, there are others, and not just the multiracial folks, who would like to hold on to the mentality that was designed to keep anyone with even a “drop” of black blood from ‘crossing over’ into the white mainstream. There are plenty of multiracial individuals who prefer to associate themselves with their minority heritage, in the case of minority/white racial mixes,” Walk’s mother said.

“I am Cherokee Indian,” Heather Fann, a student at Kutzstown University said. “I don’t receive special treatment and my people had their land taken from them and then were forced to fight to keep it for the white man. I am a minority. I can’t go to a school and find more than three people with my ethnic background. All minorities are majorities compared to my minority.”

“Last year Cabrini students (white, black, Asian, Latino and international) participated in the Implicit Association Test,” Dixon said. This online test analyzed one’s preference towards race. The white students tested showed an unconscious preference toward whites. They viewed the information as negative proof of deep lying racism while blacks, who showed preference toward blacks viewed the information as proof of their pride.

Affirmative Action levels the playing field so people of a minority race and all women have the chance to compete in education and in business. Some call Affirmative Action reverse discrimination. White men currently hold 95 percent to 97 percent of the high-level corporate jobs with affirmative action programs in place

“From the outset, affirmative action was envisioned as a temporary remedy that would end once there was a ‘level playing field’ for all Americans,” Dixon said.

An estimate of 70 percent of schools are not in compliance with Title IX, the federal equal education opportunity law. For every dollar earned by men, women on a whole earn 74 cents, African-American women earn 63 cents and Latin women earn 57 cents. According to the Census Bureau, only 25 percent of all doctors and lawyers are women. Less than 1 percent of auto mechanics are women, and women are 8.4 percent of engineers. The Previous statistics were found in September 2001 issue of The Woman’s Organization magazine.

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Catherine Dilworth

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