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Race and relations on campus


Arizona Daily Wildcat

By Zack Armstrong
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 13, 1999

Race relations and a lack of many cultures' abilities to set aside their differences, have been fuel for conflicts world wide. They can most recently be seen in places like East Timor and Israel/Palestine. Here on campus, we are not so far away from the root of the problem.

I walk around this campus everyday and I don't feel very confident in the mixing and integration (or rather, the relative lack thereof) of the many different cultural and social groups that this campus contains. Everywhere I look I see different assemblages of people, each of them consisting solely of people from a particular ethnic group. On this campus it's largely groups of whites, but there are also groups of Native Americans, Asians of all variety, blacks and Mexicans.

Why is this so? Why are people so prone to staying so close to their "own kind"? I guess it's because it's what we know and it makes life easier and more comfortable. But the easy way isn't always the best way. Granted, there are exceptions to this. I mean I'm not saying that there is no mixing at all, but the fact still remains, people tend to stick to what they know, and they know their own cultural and social heritage.

I understand this; I sympathize with it, but I also understand that the sooner we erase the need for this petty comfort and go off into the world and see all that it has to offer, the sooner we take another step towards that much elusive world peace.

On this campus alone, there are dozens of recognized student organizations that distinguish themselves with a particular ethnicity. Only members from certain cultural minorities can join. I understand the need to feel like you belong, to feel that there is something bigger than yourself to be a part of, but this kind of self-segregation is not healthy in the long run. If we keep separating ourselves, even on these small levels, we will never be able to fully come together.

It is important to understand our history and where we came from but not become overwhelmed by it and define ourselves by it. Knowing the past so we do not repeat it, is different from living in it. We need to look at our heritage, but not forget to look at the heritage of our neighbors and their neighbors and so on. This is where universal multicultural understanding will come from. By doing this we can begin to understand how we all relate and why we have never been able to mix effectively in the past.

Instead of putting the focus on clubs that interpret membership on strictly cultural grounds, we need to put more emphasis on clubs that are geared towards other interests; clubs that deal with things like sports or academics or even stamp collecting; clubs with interests that are blind to cultural differences. This is where we come together or at least where we begin to come together. If we start on a small level, it will eventually translate into a larger one. We need to concentrate on similarities, not differences.

We can no longer further ourselves as a society unless we all come together as one. It's the key to everything. We are all the same. We are all made up of the same stuff. We all want the best for ourselves and our loved ones. We all fear the same, and we all love the same. It sounds clich­d, but it's true. The sooner we all know that, and I mean know it, know it like we know how to breathe; know it from the core of our brains to the pit of our bowels; know it without even having to think about it, the sooner we live in peace.

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