The recent campus debates about race, diversity and education make me glad to live inside of a bubble of concrete surrounded by weapons-grade kryptonite 15 miles below earth’s surface. In America and UCSB, people simply do not want to think about these issues. However, the fact that the world can be overwhelming, doesn’t mean that the correct course of action is to stick one’s head underground. Politics is a very scary word. Scary like the Big Bang Theory, evolution, death and nuclear weapons. Politics is one of those things we can place in the category of life called reality. Iraq is real. Afghanistan is real. Somalia is real. They are scary because they are complicated and perilous situations, but that doesn’t imply that we as university students should be avoiding engagement with these issues.
I am not concerned with apathy on college campuses. I am concerned with the two things that cause apathy: laziness and stupidity. Race, diversity and education are all tricky subjects and, unfortunately, many Americans and UCSB students have decided that it’s better to hide from these topics when they should be engaging in an earnest dialogue.
True, these issues raise tough questions – questions that may not have definite answers. However, a strong line of questioning can at least educate us about the world and help us find ways to function better as a society.
Race isn’t real, and yet it is because we make it real. Races like black, white, yellow and red are really just made up. If we start dividing people into categories of race, we end up with either 7 billion different races or just one: human. Nevertheless, history has helped insure that some kind of imaginary classification, such as race, exists. Those claiming there is no place for affirmative action in the 21st century might be pointed to recall a little bit of America’s genocidal history which includes slavery and open war against Native Americans. Race has a reality today because of a history of colonialism and oppression. So, even though race isn’t an inherent fact of the human soul, it has a reality and a hand in creating ghettos and reservations as well as the very problems facing our education system that some would like to ignore.
However, to move forward, we have to investigate how race is perpetuated, and act to make equal what the past has made unequal. I’m not talking about communism or desegregating the OC. I have a much more simple solution: equal K-12 education. This means the federal government will have to spend some green to even out absurd situations like in Piedmont, California, where the area serves as a separate school district from the rest of Oakland. Education should be universal.
Speaking of words that have the root word univers, I believe that our universities have not only the right to create a diverse student body, I believe they should have a directive and purpose. Being a university means that our school is a universe unto itself. Everything on the outside should be on the inside. Think of cute little prepackaged airline food.
Until our universities represent every diverse portion of the giant American salad bowl, no student graduating from UCSB will understand what it means to be a citizen of America and of the world. We will continue to be sheltered in the same reality that makes us forget we have a thousand nukes aimed at Russia and that they have a thousand aimed back at us, or that we are engaged in undeclared war in Somalia. A diverse university will lead to a diverse America and will put the government in step with its many people. Like America, UCSB has yet to live up to its potential, and while banning opinions isn’t a solution, everyone participating in the world as if they were part of it is.