Last week, Apple CEO and Auburn alumnus Tim Cook came to speak on diversity. In a special interview with The Plainsman he talked specifically about diversity at the University.
This week, the University condemned an alt-right white student union, mainly for its anti-semitic dialogue and a whites-only member policy.
On the first day in one of my classes this past semester, my professor asked everyone to stand up. She asked the class to arrange ourselves according to how we perceived a certain topic, rating our perceptions from one (strongly disagrees) to 10 (strongly agrees). The first statement was something along the lines of “Auburn University handles diversity very well.” Every white student stood somewhere in the range of seven to 10. The black students in the class (there were only two) stood very close to one.
According to the fall 2016 enrollment statistics, about 14 percent of Auburn’s total enrolled student body are minorities. Less than 7 percent of the student body is African-American.
I have had more than one student tell me they do not believe that mixed-race couples should “be a thing.” But, it’s okay for them to say that because they have a black friend.
It does not seem to be a coincidence that the enrollment of minorities at Auburn is so low.
There are efforts being made to include students on campus. There are offices dedicated to diversity and events on campus where they invite speakers from around the globe to talk about international problems. But the problem does not begin at international diversity. It starts with the racial divide and racial tensions clearly prevalent on campus. Even in 2017.
The University is not lacking in resources or effort in trying to increase diversity across campus. I think the University is simply ignoring, or ignorant of, the underlying problem. There is still a largely backward mindset held by some students, students who are undermining the progression and efforts being done by the University to promote diversity.
When a planned protest sparked after President Donald Trump’s immigration ban to show solidarity across cultures, genders and ethnicities, a counter protest began almost instantaneously. The counter protest almost doubled the size of the original protest and was entirely unplanned.
I would like to believe that these people are ignorant of the implications of their actions, that they do not understand what it means to undermine an already disadvantaged group of people. I would like to believe that these students do not understand that they are perpetuating a cycle of institutional racism and sexism.
John Knox, president of 1901 Alabama Constitution Convention said, “But if we would have white supremacy, we must establish it by law.” The Constitution Knox helped write, which is still in effect in Alabama today, albeit it with more than 900 amendments, supplies the basis for Alabama’s public school funding — property taxes. A tax policy which inherently inhibits poor, rural residents of Alabama from receiving a high-quality education. Which predominantly affects poor black communities in Alabama.
Action must be taken by the University to educate its students, to rid the University of a mindset so ingrained in Alabama it is written into its constitution. The actions of those working to increase diversity on campus should not be prevented by the actions of those working to prevent inclusion.