Commentary: Diversity classes not far reaching

I’m a firm believer in diversity and cultural awareness. Growing up in New York City and going to school in the Brooklyn public school system, I only rarely thought about differences in skin tone, religion or what have you; instead, people were just people. We had history classes and learned about American history with some emphasis on looking at some of the many ethnic groups making up the cultural melting pot that is the United States. We covered any number of things and while we were generally aware of racial differences, they didn’t come up much.

High school offered some racial awareness education, but if there were any issues of discrimination, I didn’t see them. Cultural issues would come up here and there, but mostly in the form of various heritage clubs at the school. I will readily admit that my school was, perhaps, more integrated than most, but even so it was a decent mix of various groups that got along with each other on a personal level or through common interests rather than any sort of racial pretense. There was, I think, one issue in the entirety of the four years I spent there, which included a tongue-in-cheek argument between some people from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Recently I learned that I had to take a cultural diversity requirement to complete my major. As I mentioned previously, I’m all for cultural diversity, and I picked the only course that could fit within my summer course timeframe: African-American History. I thought it could be an interesting course but, sadly, a medical issue caused me to miss several classes and I’ve had to withdraw as a result. Still, taking the course as long as I did got me thinking. Two problems came to mind that I felt are worth sharing.

Immediately, it struck me that classifying it separate and attaching a diversity requirement to it, seems wrong to me. It’s all American history, and most, if not all, of my history courses that do not fulfill the diversity requirement have addressed the contributions of more than just “whites.” I feel that separating it in such a fashion is paramount to saying “this isn’t a part of American history like ‘History of the American West’ or similar topics. It’s different, apart from that.” I am in no way saying that diversity is not important, relevant and a fine thing to study, but rather that history should be looked at for its contributions and aid in development as much as the problems that have arisen within it.

The other problem is that strictly American history should be focused on as a part of the diversity requirement. In a world that is more connected through technology and major events every day, this creates a greater sense of isolation and doesn’t ask us to look outward. We need to know more about the world, about the global stage and the cultures of people who are living in a different hemisphere. In a culture that seems to have increasing disdain for higher learning and is permeated by an atmosphere of fear and ignorance, more than ever we need to increase our outward cultural sensitivity.

We have a pretty broad allowance in what courses we can take at Northeastern; a lot of room for personal interest. Why not ask for just a few more of our courses to be culturally-focused? Let us look at some of the many peoples and cultures that make up the U.S., in order to be more united, but let us not look down upon or forget those outside of our country. Let us put a greater emphasis on global culture and perhaps even separate the two. There is a world of interest out there, traditions and cultures that have existed in some form or another for thousands of years. We have accomplished a tremendous amount, but we should always remember that the world is bigger than us.

– Warren Schnur-Holmes is a junior history major.

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