Rachel Griffin’s visit Monday addressed issues long debated at Eastern.
Our university in particular has struggled with truly embracing the diversity so publically advertised. Phrases like “celebrating diversity,” and “inclusivity” are generously thrown about in conversation, however, there seems to be a lack of motivation at an administrative level to really enforce these beliefs.
A community that truly invites and values its entire people does not declare a public cry for help against a sexual abuser “trashy.” It does not use vague remarks like “inner-city” to refer to its African American population. What our community does well, however, is consistently unite against the oppression its individuals feel, though their complaints are generally brushed off and left unresolved. We give our people a platform to speak, but those with the power to create actual change are unwilling to respond.
Griffin noted that Eastern’s campus has done well at attracting a diverse student body by definition, but that real inclusivity requires much more. At a university with groups like the Women’s Empowerment League, Black Student Union, and EIU Pride, it is discerning to hear students continue to express a deep pain from both the blatant and less overt forms of oppression they experience on a daily basis.
While Griffin emphasized the importance of having a vocabulary with which to talk about these issues, it may be equally as important to be able to look beyond the terminology that has become a barrier to really having these open conversations.
There are women afraid to call themselves feminists for fear of the backlash brave, outspoken individuals have received, and the blight of racial inequality is often belittled and placed into a proverbial deck of cards that are regarded as no more than a cheap cry for sympathy.
In regard to social justice, every effort to advance the progress of marginalized peoples can be matched by a group of opposing perpetuators too uncomfortable with their own prejudices to agree there is a problem at all.
As a university, Eastern has the resources to make progress, and as a city, Charleston at least has the want.
Griffin beautifully quoted poet Audre Lorde to make a point that we are told from a young age but continuously disregard: “We can sit in out corners mute forever while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned, we can sit in our safe corners as mute as bottles, and still we will be no less afraid.”
Every day on this campus, a student’s, or a staff of faculty member’s life, education, or sense of worth is threated based on superficial prejudices that have been deeply engrained in our basic functions.
Everyone is at fault. It is not until we are able to examine ourselves in critical manner as individuals and as a society, and acknowledge our personal and collective faults on this matter, that we can truly begin to have a real discussion.
Katie Smith is a senior journalism major and can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]