As I flipped through last week’s edition of the Pendulum, I was struck by how many photos looked similar: a panel of white, male students discussing politics. A page almost fully filled with white guys standing behind lecterns — speakers that the university brought to talk to students.
Top photos also included some bald white guys in front of an Elon logo. I thought they were the same person until I read the cutlines. There was also a photo of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. At our staff meeting that night, a reporter pointed out that our photo variety was lacking, and maybe we could try to shake things up.
How can we shake things up if the only big events to cover at Elon are white, male speakers? There were other stories within that edition, yes, but there was an overwhelming abundance of white guys behind lecterns talking.
We covered what was happening at the university that week, and that’s what was happening. Our photo team did what they could. The university, however, could try a little harder.
I can’t even blame the epidemic of Just White Dudes speaking on campus at Elon, though. It’s fundamentally rooted in our society.
We are a nation that was led for 231 years by white dudes. A nation whose top companies are led by white dudes. Women currently hold 4 percent of CEO positions of Fortune 500 companies. So it’s not surprising that our school brings in speakers that mimic the demographics of who is powerful in our country.
It’s not just an issue of gender, either, but an issue for all who are not "The Norm" — straight, white and male. It’s about amplifying voices that are not so easily heard in our society.
Our country is diverse. Our student body is diverse. A unique mix of genders, sexualities, races, nationalities and ethnicities attend school here. Why do only the white guys get to see themselves in our speakers? They already get to see themselves on television, in government offices, and at the top of big companies. We get it, white guys can do anything they put their minds and their money to.
It is fundamentally important that we encourage those who don’t fit the bill of the all-American boy success story to chase their dreams. Brown girls, disabled boys, non-binary and trans kids, and everyone in between deserves to see themselves in the speakers that come to campus. At the 2012 Oscars, actress Gabourey Sibide, best known for her breakout role in the film "Precious," made a statement that exemplified the issue of representation, specifically within the entertainment industry: “If I get to see myself on screen, then I know that I exist.”
There are lawyers, leaders, entrepreneurs, broadcasters and small business owners who exist outside the realm of white male-ness. They may not be as apparent and easy to come by, but that is precisely the reason why the university should seek out those industry professionals that are more representative of our student body, and our nation, as a whole.