By Megan Lupo and Samantha Brandbergh
In a 1998 issue of The Rider News, it was reported that “Rider University students are not of one mind on the issue of diversity on campus. Some feel that there is a lack of diversity on campus that needs to be addressed, while others feel perfectly comfortable maintaining the status quo.”
Although it’s been 19 years since that statement was made, Rider students are still divided on the issue of diversity and the representation and recognition of minority students.
Student Government Association’s equity and inclusion committee hosted their first open discussion on race called “Three Sided Coin” on Nov. 20.
The event was moderated by junior theater major Stephanie Hampton and sophomore political science major Charles Palmer.
Junior human resource major Tori Graves-Parker, sophomore behavioral neuroscience major Brea Rivera and TCNJ Black Student Union President Sarah Bennett were the three panelists who discussed a range of topics pertaining to race and societal expectations.
Hampton started the evening off with the question, “How often do you find yourself as the only black girl in your class?”
For Bennett, going from living in Paterson and North Haledon — where one out of three people was black — to TCNJ, it was a “culture shock.” Walking the campus, she said it took her about 45 minutes to see another black person.
In regard to often being the only black person in her classes, Graves-Parker raised the reflective question, “Would you rather voice out opinions, voice out facts, educate your fellow classmates or would you rather sit there and let everyone just think what they want to think, assume whatever negative assumptions about you?”
While Bennet said politics isn’t her area of expertise, race is something she is passionate about.
Graves-Parker and Rivera echoed this statement, saying that other classmates are afraid to speak up because of the fear of starting a political debate.
“We are brainwashed every day to learn about European culture but as soon as why try to talk about our own culture or educate someone it’s like, ‘Oh my God,’” Graves-Parker said.
The next topic of the discussion pertained to differentiating race and ethnicity.
Rivera expressed her frustration when people say they “don’t see color.”
“I want them to understand how color doesn’t necessarily define a person, but it definitely is a part of who someone is,” she said. “We need to realize race is something we can’t be blinded to.”
Hampton agreed, stating that “seeing color can open the doors to flood beauty, culture and light. When you say you’re colorblind, I feel bad for you because you’re cutting yourself off from this world that you don’t know about.”
Closing out the discussion, Graves-Parker explained the pressure put on black women by society and the image of the “angry black woman.”
“There’s no room to be weak. Do you know how hard that is?” she said. “I’m getting lectured because my facial expression isn’t up to par and I can’t have a bad day. God forbid you break or anything; you better do that behind closed doors.”
In the future, Palmer said people of various races should come forward and help educate their peers in order to “expand upon the progress” seen at the panel.
“It’s important to have these discussions,” he said. “Because too many times, we don’t want to stir controversy. And you don’t want to stir the pot, but speaking [out on] issues can sometimes bring a peaceful resolution.”
Printed in the 11/29/17 edition.