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Understanding sensitivity and tolerance

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, October 31, 2005

We all know Halloween is supposed to be a time to let down your guard and to allow your real personality shine through. With this in mind, I looked forward to the Halloween weekend, ready to unload my mind and gorge on candy.

So my weekend started on Thursday, when I attended the Student Comedy Show at Legends. I was a little skeptical about the show, not exactly sure if my abs were going to get their much-needed workout from laughter, or if my hands were just going to deliver whimpy applause all night. Things were going great, I even caught myself chuckling at times, until one “comedian” mentioned the death of Rosa Parks. Instantly I became confused; I thought I was at a comedy show, and I could not fathom how the death of Rosa Parks would fit into his sequence. It was not until I heard the laughter that followed the “Thanks to Rosa Parks, blacks can sit in the front of the dining hall” that I froze and stared around the room. THIS was comedy? This warranted the jocular laughter I heard?

Do not get me wrong – I am not trying to shoot daggers at the person who made this crude “joke.” Instead, I am attacking every single person in that room who did not have the gall to stop and think for two seconds and say, “Hey, that’s not cool.”

But hey, that was only Thursday. The weekend was just beginning.

Friday night approached, and a few friends and I stopped by a party to try and be “cool Notre Dame kids.” The party was kind of wild – I think I even saw Michael Jackson there – and my impressions of Notre Dame started to ascend again, making up for the significant dip it took from the night before. It was then I spotted two people, one dressed as Hurricane Katrina and the other one as the victim of the hurricane. As the imposter “Hurricane Katrina” ran around making “wooshing” noises, I froze and looked around, feeling a tad bit of deja vú. However, everyone was busy laughing and having a good time. No one took the time to wrinkle a brow or shake their head, and I could not believe the insensitivity that was displayed again by my peers.

I entered this University as a non-Catholic, minority, liberal-minded female VERY apprehensive about my next four years at such a conservative learning institution. However, I realized that despite my differences, there still is, or I was led to believe, a common human morality that any person – black, white, short, tall – should be sensitive towards. I see the diversity campaigns on campus – the bracelets, the seminars, the invention of new departments – to try and solve this perpetual problem of why race matters, but from two days out of my four months at Notre Dame, I must say I think we have a bigger issue at hand. If we are going to try and promote students to act with sensitivity and tolerance towards issues on campus, I think it may help if students know what those words mean.

Ashley WilliamsfreshmanMcGlinnOct. 30