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The 'race' race

And how we’re all currently losing

Published: Monday, April 2, 2012

Updated: Monday, April 2, 2012 13:04



Picture this:

You’re a senior in high school and you show up on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa for a college visit. You’re shown around campus by a male and a female in purple shirts that read SAA. Throughout the tour you learn that one is involved in Northern Iowa Student Government, UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers and Dance Marathon and runs track, and the other is involved in Greek Life, the Harry Potter Club and the Interpreters Theatre and is on the Dean’s List. After your tour, the number of things you can get involved in impresses you, and you know UNI is the place for you.

Now, here’s the question:

What was the skin color of your campus tour guides?

Here, at the University of Northern Iowa, we preach the idea of diversity; specifically, we attempt to embrace multiculturalism, or ethnic diversity. We go to great lengths to prove we are intolerant of discrimination. But what happens when we go to such great lengths that our mission becomes paradoxical?

Taking a position of being intolerant of intolerance is an easy thing to do, for the dividing line between that and promoting inclusion is a fine one. But I believe promoting inclusion over being intolerant of intolerance is an effort worthy of more attention.

One of the fatal flaws of the actualization of diversity is its ability to become as blatantly racist as the exclusion of an individual based on the color of their skin. We laugh at or comment on how ridiculous commercials are that attempt to be politically correct by including a number of children who all happen to be from different ethnic backgrounds. Some people are satisfied with that image and believe it promotes the idea of ethnic diversity. I would strongly disagree.

The fact is, actively searching for people who are visibly different from one another is an act of racism and discrimination.

It makes me sick when someone attempts to justify an action by talking about their concern about “how it’ll look,” if the individuals involved aren’t visibly diverse enough.

To be honest, anyone who is quick enough to judge your organization, university or any group based on the number of visible ethnic minorities is ignorant and hypocritically prejudiced. And if a group is only as good as the sum of its members, why would anyone want to recruit ignorant hypocrites? (I know. Because they pay the most money; I get it).

Society is obsessed with political correctness. We’re obsessed with fear, hatemongering, the status quo and incompetent politicians. If we focused more on the resources each individual has to offer and their ability to positively contribute to the whole, we wouldn’t have to worry about what people look like.

A word is a word is a word. And a word’s meaning is the same whether I hear it over the radio or while watching TV. The only difference is I can see, and judge, the individual on the television. Case in point: the Nixon/Kennedy debate.

So, in case you were still wondering, what was the skin color of your campus tour guides?

It doesn’t matter.

UNI should be promoting the idea that any student is offered equal opportunities to make an impact and get involved wherever they please, regardless of their socioeconomic background, physical ability, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender or skin color.

Our feelings toward diversity must change and the ways in which we acknowledge our differences must evolve.

Negative or positive, discrimination is discrimination.

I’m not suggesting we become blind to race; I’m saying we should attach no more or less significance to race than we need to. Fighting ignorance with ignorance is the same as fighting intolerance with intolerance.

One of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous quotations is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

What he didn’t mean, and what he never said, was, “I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will be positively discriminated against at a level that is equal to other ethnic minority groups, in order to meet diversity quotas established by institutions, states or individuals obsessed with appearances.”

It’s important that we realize the distinction between these two ideas.

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