Guest column: A Dialogue on diverse perspectives

Peter Benzoni is from Sioux City, Iowa, and is a junior in computer engineering, political science, and international studies. Sabina Grenaderova was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and grew up in Kazan, Russia before moving to the United States at 17. She is a senior, double majoring in communication studies and international studies

Benzoni: Look, the dominant perspective on all levels of U.S. government, university included, is that of the American, white, Christian male.

It’s not a conscious decision. We don’t wake up and say “Today, I am going to represent the ideals of white, Christian men.” And yet, we do. We make decisions representing a human mosaic of experience, based solely on a tiny piece thereof — our own narrow, and frankly, monochromatic set of experiences.

To ask us to be any different is to ask the impossible — I cannot truly experience any identity but my own. I can never, will never, know what it’s like to be the people I’m trying to represent. To be a student on campus who has been called a terrorist to his face, despite being a relatively light-skinned Indian. Nor can I know what it is like to be the ISU student who literally grew up in a war zone in Sudan.

And yet, I make huge decisions directly affecting them. Do I really have the audacity to I think I can represent any of these students if I can’t even begin to understand their experiences?

Grenaderova: Speaking from the perspective of an international student who has traveled through many countries, to answer [Benzoni]’s question, I would say it is almost impossible to be able put yourself in the shoes of internationals being, let’s say, an American, white, Christian male.

Many of you might not agree, though hopefully many of you would. But I believe there is a common set of experiences every international student goes through upon arrival in America. We must endure cultural shock, survive assimilation and overcome the language barriers, just to name a few of the many other difficulties some of you might face when traveling abroad.

Different experiences that each of us go through shape our vision, therefore I would argue that being international students, our views and opinions could significantly differ from each other. Being on the Senate of Government of Student Body has made me think of my experience and the difference that all international students could bring in Iowa State University and Ames communities. Each of us comes here with our own goals, but we also come here with goal of cultural exchange.

Benzoni: Absolutely. There’s a certain shared journey that international students, despite their cultural differences must all go through. Likewise for domestic minority students who are presented with their own unique — and yet, shared — challenges, such as being expected to be the spokesperson for a whole race in classes where he or she is the only member of that race.

It’s a true challenge for both [Grenaderova] and I to represent this plurality of experiences. Therefore, we challenge each and every one of you to both openly share your culture and story and to absorb others. Get involved with GSB today and change the face of your government!