While Elon University might be working hard to increase racial and cultural diversity, as a university we still fall short of meeting the kind of racial and cultural ratio we should have if we are going to boast about our “global engagement.”
Coming to Elon I knew I wouldn’t be seeing as much diversity as I was used to, but when I found out only 20 percent of my class identified as a person of color, I was appalled.
According to a study done in 2015 by the Pew Research Center, about 35 percent of people in the United States identify as a person of color. While this number might not seem representative of the “melting pot” narrative we’re so fond of, 54 percent of Americans are projected to identify as a person of color by 2065, according to the same study.
So while Elon’s struggle to become more diverse might seem fruitless, our 20 percent is higher than the overall 18 percent of Elon undergraduates who identify as a person of color. In the same way that our country is expected to become more diverse, hopefully Elon will, too.
Elon has taken large strides to widen its international focus. It’s clear that Elon has put significant effort into highlighting different cultures. Just this month the campus celebrated the festival of Holi.
For those of you who don't know, Holi — also known as the Festival of Colors — is a Hindu festival that lasts one night and one day and is celebrated with bonfires, colored powder and water.
The holiday celebrates the death of the demon Holika, the coming of spring and the symbolic triumph of good over evil.
While the intention behind this event was undoubtedly positive, some questions were raised in the community about whether events such as these should be considered cultural appropriation.
I can feel half of you not-politically-correct readers rolling your eyes way back into your head from here, but how Elon portrays other cultures — especially those that Elon students represent — should be important to us.
Some friends and I sat down to study outside in the sun this past Sunday when this topic came up. Having had a very liberal education and natural desire to show respect to everyone, I have the tendency to drift toward the politically correct argument.
Yes, these events, it could be argued, are examples of cultural appropriation, but if every representation of another culture is a sign of disrespect how are we supposed to support and learn about another culture’s traditions?
That being said, if Elon is going to promote itself and strive to be more extraordinarily global, then the organizations that host cultural events should go out of their way to educate the community about why the event is important to a certain culture and why it should be important to us.
Students should be wary of attending events that they don’t care to learn about or understand, only because of the photo opportunity.
As Elon tries to increase its diversity and promote cultural events on campus, it is important to remember that our university has many great cultural resources. Whether students, teachers or organizations, I’m sure that if you reached out and showed the desire to learn about another culture, finding a teacher wouldn’t be too hard.