Diversity groups not diverse
October 4, 2013
Narrow focus of diversity groups leads to less involvement
Nearly a quarter of students enrolled at Monmouth College are minorities or international students. The growing increase in minority and international students has played in role in the rise of cultural groups, such as UMOJA and Raices; both of which emerged on campus in the last three years. UMOJA—which means unity in Swahili—is an African-American advocacy group, and Raices is essentially the Spanish word for roots, and its mission is to promote Latino culture. Still there have been sentiments that these clubs do not bring people together but further segregate them.
“There are people who are flat out not open to the idea [of UMOJA] because it’s all black,” said UMOJA president, Raven Robinson. “We’ve been fighting that for so long and we still don’t know how to get over that, because that’s our mission and our purpose. I don’t want to change who we are to fit an ideal of what people think we should be.”
While UMOJA looks to promote positive African-American culture on campus and Raices is rooted in Latino culture, both clubs express desire to outreach to all on campus. Raices’ mission statement reads, “Raices is an organization that is dedicated to reaching out to various groups by uniting those from a plethora of backgrounds in one cause…to increase awareness of our fellow brothers and sisters, to open our minds towards distinct ways of seeing one another and appreciating the various colors that each individual provides, to the collage of this and many other countries around the world.”
Still Robinson worries that non-black students are not coming to UMOJA meetings because they feel they do not belong. She hopes her group can dismiss that fear by emphasizing how the group talks about interracial topics or topics that do not revolve around race or ethnicity. “We’ve talked about what is beautiful and what’s ugly and that has nothing to do with race whatsoever,” said Robinson.
Cultural groups are not new to Monmouth. The Coalition for Ethnic Awareness was a group that promoted African-American awareness until it dissolved in 2011. There was a resurgence of interest in the dormant Coalition for Women’s Awareness last spring but is not believed to currently be an active organization. And Monmouth has had LGBTQIA advocacy groups under various names, the active one being Spectrum.
Whether or not the make-up of these groups can become more diverse remains to be seen, but since Monmouth’s student population is more diverse than it’s ever been, these groups are likely to grow.