In my middle school Spanish class, I sat in the back row. The teacher directed us to start playing a game. It involved sharing a pencil and a set of dice. Our desks were so close that our elbows practically touched. When it was my turn, I rolled the dice and started writing, leaving the dice a little too close to my arm. Although it was the next person’s turn, he didn’t move. An eager classmate told him to hurry up and roll the dice, but the boy refused.
“I don’t want to touch her,” he said.
He was scared to touch me because my skin was darker than his. I was scared because I didn’t understand why he reacted to the color of my skin as if it were a contagious disease.
People fear what they do not understand. With misinformation circulating in societal discussions, people lose track of what is accurate and what isn’t. As children, we are told what to believe by our parents. As we get older, the people we surround ourselves with tend to shape our opinions the most.
When we were children, we didn’t know any better. Now that we are older, we must know better. Ignorance is a choice.
As time progresses and people adapt, our surrounding community shifts into a new era of diversity. Each culture brings a unique perspective as to what it means to be human.
Although the surrounding city holds what the U.S. Census Bureau found to be a 95.4% white population, Franklin College has worked to improve diversity on campus. According to Franklin College, the enrolled-student population for 2020-21 is 85.93% white, 3.68% Hispanic or Latino, 4.01% Black or African American and 1.45% Asian. Although these numbers may seem low, diversity on campus has only been growing. Franklin College has students from 17 states and five countries.
Junior Nagib Afani, originally from Mexico, came to Franklin College to play golf and study psychology. When Afani arrived, he experienced a cultural shock with having to adapt to the small-city environment compared to the big cities he was used to. Afani’s time at Franklin College has allowed him to make friends and be embraced into a welcoming community.
He recalls during his second Thanksgiving in the U.S., a friend had invited him over for Thanksgiving dinner.
“It was really fun, everyone made me feel like I was part of the family even though I had just met them. I was a little nervous at first but it went down as the day continued. The food was really good and overall a great experience,” Afani said.
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Dr. Zhenyu Tang, has taught at Franklin College for four years and is going on her fifth year. Dr. Tang was born in the Hunan Province of China and completed her undergraduate program in China, but she came to the United States for her graduate program at Purdue University.
“From my experience here, Franklin College has been welcoming of different cultures,“ Tang said.
“I taught a class called Chinese society last semester. I was really glad there was a lot of interest among students in Chinese society, and I really appreciate the enthusiasm and interest from the students.”
The overall campus of Franklin College has done a decent job at welcoming international students and faculty. They have expanded upon the Diversity Equity and Inclusion program on campus. This summer, Franklin College was able to offer the “Shine” orientation for incoming students of color. Students were able to talk about their experiences in a safe environment, allowing their voices to be heard.
However, once you are off campus, it can be a different story. Franklin College is located in Johnson County, but the values of the city do not reflect the values of the college.
Even though we are seeing this issue with current events, the control of fear has been on-going. People allow for the fear to manifest and create division between different ethnic communities.
During the 2016 presidential election, I heard my classmates say, “Build that wall, deport them all.” I went home and asked my parents if I was going to have to go away because no one wanted me in this country anymore. Although I am a citizen of the United States, it was no longer “we.” All of my white peers were “we” and the people of color were “them.”
This nation was founded on immigrants. “We the people of the United States,” does not just mean people with white skin. It is our duty, not only as students but as people of society, to bring unity not uniformity.
The color of our skin and where we come from does not mean that we don’t deserve to be here. Your perception of us will not take away from our right to be treated with human decency.
Not every immigrant’s experience has been the same. Not every resident’s perception of immigrants is the same. However, we are all the same once we look past our physical appearances. We are all human.
“We can still do more,” Tang said. “I think that we can have more conversations, both in class and outside of classrooms, so that we can continue to work toward a more diverse, inclusive, college campus environment.”
People fear what they do not understand.
When are we going to start trying to learn?