On Oct. 19, four members of Eastern’s Multicultural Awareness Advisory Committee (MAAC) held a panel discussion geared towards ethnic students to discuss what it is like being a minority at a predominantly white institution (PWI) and the ways in which students can go about handling race-related issues. The discussion opened up with the panelists answering the question of how they adjusted to attending a PWI.
“I had to compromise in a lot of ways,” Victor Guillen, Senior Political Science major said. He is from Venezuela, and he told the audience how it is a custom in his country to greet those of the opposite sex with a kiss on the cheek. However, he began to notice overtime that this was not an American custom. He said this was a culture shock for him because in Venezuela value closeness whereas Americans are more so individualistic and value their space.
Another question that was raised during the discussion was how the panelists deal with negative comments from either professors or students in regards to their cultural backgrounds.
“Either you walk away or you educate them,” said Senior Psychology major, Babz Johnson.
Johnson, who is from Nigeria, told of an experience that he had with someonein which the person asked him if they have cars in Nigeria. He has had other encounters with people who made ignorant statements and he said that he makes it a point to educate people by showing them pictures of the houses, cars, and buildings in Nigeria in efforts to dispel the stereotypes of his country being poor.
Lastly, the panelists tackled the question of how they have made Eastern their home.
“I had to find something where could be myself. Where I could just drop my shoulders, relax and be myself” Senior Exercise Science major Pascal Guerrier said.
He said that he is most able to be himself on Eastern’s Blaze Step team as well as being the leader of the Natural Hair club of which just had a successful fashion show recently.
Alysia Green, a senior Biblical Studies major and President of SAGE, interpreted the question differently in that she said home for her is a place where you shouldn’t have to feel challenged at every turn to defend your opinion on your beliefs which often happens when students go home.
“A lot of the MAAC clubs have been home for me so like BSL, SAGE and it’s like a place where I have people that I can go to and I can trust,” Green said.