By Dan Leonard:
Dealing with the question of why Eastern is so segregated is hard to address, particularly because it seems that most of Eastern doesn’t believe it is segregated, or has any problem with the issue of race in the first place.
It is certainly true that Eastern is a good deal ahead of other Christian colleges in striving for racial diversity, but a relative goodness does not mean that the issue of equality in our community has reached Kingdom standards.
If we want to know why Eastern is so segregated, we need to first convince ourselves that Eastern has a problem with race.
Racism is multifaceted and complex. It does not limit itself to issues of skin color alone, but is interconnected with issues of class, gender and culture. It is not an issue that deals only with prejudiced language, bigotry and hate groups. Racism is not only a problem of the KKK.
While I suspect there are people at Eastern who are verbally and mentally racist, I believe that the racism in our community is primarily a structural issue.
Where the structural issues of race are most troubling is in our academics, and this is where I believe Eastern needs the most work.
For example, one of the largest and most important departments at Eastern is the theology department. It is in our theology classes that we learn who God is, and what he means for our lives.
However, though I love the faculty in the theology department, I can’t help but notice they are almost entirely white men.
Now, I’m a white male myself, and I can attest to the fact that historically we don’t have the best track record in doing justice. For that reason, I wonder how complete a picture of God we can have when our understanding of God comes primarily from the experience and history of white men.
When I read about Jesus, he seems to be concerned with the marginalized of society. And more so, it seems that in Scripture it is frequently the marginalized who have the best understanding of who God is.
Unfortunately, we in the church have often done more marginalizing than listening to groups that have been overlooked in our society. At Eastern, and primarily as Christians, we have a responsibility to listen and learn from the marginalized, and also to restore them back into the community.
As I reflect on my education at Eastern a few weeks from my graduation, I have many more positive things to say than negative.
But I will say that the greatest failure in my education at Eastern was that I managed to go an entire four years without taking a single class from an African-American professor, and without being exposed to the ideas of people who are not white men.
This should not be possible.
Dan Leonard is a leader of SPEAK and a senior majoring in missions and anthropology.
By Jared Bass:
Segregation is usually characterized by racism and inequality. It intimates racial tension and suggests social inferiority.
This is not the segregation present on Eastern’s campus. Eastern University is not a racist institution, but de facto segregation still exists. The segregation on our campus is a division and separation between ethnicities and cultures.
Walton Hall is the perfect stage to view segregation in action.
On the ground floor of Walton Hall, there are two lounges: the Jammin Java lounge and the lounge outside the Student Government office.
On occasional observations, I have noticed that when students of color are in the Jammin Java lounge, there is an absence of white students. Moreover, when the students of color leave, the lounge becomes increasingly white.
These observations are similar to the observations of the SGA lounge. Whenever students of color congregate in the SGA lounge, the white students vanish, and when the ethnic students disperse, the whites return.
Prima facie, this may not seem like segregation. However, the lounges point to the larger issue of segregation on our campus.
We are a divided university. Moreover, we are a culturally separated university.
Much of that division stems from discomfort and unfamiliarity.
Many of my white friends are uncomfortable sitting with students of color in the Walton lounges. They feel out of place; imagine how we feel in a university that is predominantly white.
My other white friends leave the lounges because of prejudice; they observe how some students of color dress and fear that these students will behave uncouthly. These are exigent issues. And as we address them, segregation on campus will dissipate.
This will require students and faculty to step out of their comfort zones and engage others from different cultures and ethnicities. It will also require students and faculty to address their personal ethnic and cultural prejudices.
If we take these steps, we will build a community that bridges all divides.
Unfortunately, these issues go deeper than this editorial can reach.
However, there are places for this discussion to continue. The Multi-cultural Advisory Committee specializes in facilitating these types of conversations from a neutral perspective.
Also, the lounges in Walton Hall are a perfect place to continue these conversations.
Jared Bass is the president of the SGA and a senior majoring in political science.