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Step outside your cultural comfort zone

Irere Romeo Kwihangana | Sunday, April 7, 2013

I want to revive the topic of race and diversity on campus. Yes, lots of heads are shaking, and I understand this topic has been exhaustively discussed. I understand if you want to switch the page and not read this piece. However, please stick with me. I bring something new to the table.
The University has done a lot of work in trying to make this campus feel more inclusive. One recent action is the change of various diversity events in the hopes more of the student body will attend. I went to what is now called Coffee House, the now called Talent Show, the Black Cultural Arts Council Fashion Show and other cultural events. Unfortunately, I did not see the intended outcome. I searched for answers, and at the town hall meeting two weeks ago I found a plausible answer. That answer is, “I don’t attend because I would feel uncomfortable being the only white guy/girl at the event.”
While this answer may have its merit, I don’t think it is good enough. I am the only black student in the 2014 class of electrical engineering. What does that entail, exactly? It means for every single class of my major, I am the only African-American. Every single hour, I go to a class where no one is from my ethnic and cultural background. I do this day in and day out, and many other minorities – ethnic, cultural or sexual – on campus have a similar experience. It took time to get used to this, and I can’t say it was an easy thing to do. For that reason, I can’t accept discomfort as an excuse to miss out on these cultural events. The excuse is not good enough.
A friend told me, “The Notre Dame education is not about being in your comfort zone.” I agree. I hope you do too. So, I’d like to challenge you to step out your comfort zone and go to one of these events. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

Irere Romeo  Kwihangana
Morrissey Manor