Guest column: Defeating racial ignorance

I am Asian American. Not just Asian, and not just American. I straddle the line of two worlds and do not fully belong to either. This was my first impression coming onto campus, that the number of Asian students enrolled at Iowa State includes me, but does not include me. Because the “American” is just as important as the “Asian” in my identity, and I am a part of an entirely new and young group within the realm of diversity.

Of course, the level of diversity always will change because it is contingent on an ever-changing student body, and it is not something we can fully control. However, a lack of diversity is not necessarily the main issue that many students face on campus, but rather a lack of recognition and acknowledgement that diversity exists. There is one thing to be said for the number of minorities or minority organizations, and another for the numbers that are ignorant of it all. For example, many students still remain unaware of the fact that there is a difference between Asian Americans and international Asian students, adding to the illusion that all Asians are the same.

This is just one stereotype that gets circulated, feeding to a culture ill educated on diversity. Every fall for the last few years, the Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition has hosted our annual Hate Wall Event. It is a two-day event dedicated to advocacy and bringing awareness of racial bullying. The importance of recognizing the impact of racism and stereotyping allows an open dialogue between students and faculty in a constructive and positive manner. The Hate Wall is one event on campus, among many, that illustrates the ignorance of diversity and how we can be a catalyst of social change and awareness.

Maya Angelou once said: “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” In her words, we can continue to perceive diversity not as a crutch or weakness to the community, but as a strength to our character. We need many pieces to make a whole, each sharing a unique identity. The idea of a diverse student body implies that there is room for you to grow, room for change and room to discover who you are in a safe environment. It impacts us all, whether you think so or not, because the diverse campus we have resonates with the dynamic experiences we all have as part of Iowa State’s community.

What we experience at Iowa State is a small preview of the diverse world we live in. In order to move forward, ignorance is no longer a bliss we have the luxury to afford.