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The diversity debate

Shaaya Ellis | Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On Sept. 6, 2012, I submitted a letter to the editor aptly named “Multiculturalism fosters segregation” in which I critiqued the various race-based groups that insist celebrating division somehow unifies us. This is an elaboration of the article.

After reading “Segregation at the Tabernacle,” Sept. 3, “Segregation or celebration?”, Sept. 6, and “Celebrate to unify,” Sept. 6, my first article was correct in arguing race-specific events wholly contradict the University’s mission of unification. How can race-delegated retreats unite all members of the Notre Dame community?

However, the author of “Segregation or celebration?” said her time at a Latino retreat was open to various members of the Notre Dame community. So, apparently such is not the case with all race-specific organizations on campus. While they insist they are welcoming to all persons and committed to diversity, race-based organizations are not welcome to a diversity of thought.

I attended the Show Some Skin, formerly known as the Race Monologues, performance Thursday and was disturbed at what I witnessed. I suspected those who decided to attend a three-hour performance and the cast members who practiced assiduously might express diversity of thought. Much to my chagrin, such was not the case. During an act called “Ethnic Goddess,” the actress made a crude comment about white girls. The comment made went along the lines of “you know, the average Notre Dame white girl who works out six hours a day and eats only lettuce.” Not only was the comment shameful and tasteless, the audience’s laughter showed the true color of those who advocate for accepting everyone’s differences. If the actress stereotyped any other non-white group in that manner, the auditorium would have been showered in boos and charges of racism would be levied against her. The show prides itself as a means of seeing people as more than what they look like. However, stooping this low contradicts everything they stand for.

This incident at the Show Some Skin performance is not the only instance in which my suspicions about multiculturalist were sadly confirmed. As a black American, I have political perspectives that are not in line with the majority of blacks. So, when I share my point of view with the various members of the Notre Dame community, I find it is the blacks and African Americans who attack me with scorn and derision – the same people who claim they appreciate diversity. Instead of challenge the arguments I make, they resort to saying I proudly participate in white racist demagoguery. “Uncle Tom” and “sell-out” are just a few of the responses levied at me.

What my detractors fail to understand is true diversity comes from people who think differently, not from people who look differently. Affirmative action is antithetical to wanting everyone equal under the law. Saying a certain group is alike and therefore acceptable to mix and match by race is simply the soft bigotry of low expectations. How can we come together whilst having a different set of standards for specific groups of people?

Multiculturalism locks people into a blind alley. It confines people to where they were born, regardless of future opportunities.

Similar to the caste system in India, multiculturism places a strong emphasis on an accident of birth and binds people to the circumstances in which they were born. But, at least the caste system does not claim to benefit those at the bottom rung.

When multiculturalists endorse and embrace ebonics as a means of communication in urban public schools, the only thing it accomplishes is protection of students’ self-esteems. Such a lofty claim reeks of absurdity. It does no good to prevent black students from speaking standard English, especially in a world where black unemployment is twice that of white unemployment.

So, if we as a community want to heal the wounds of yesteryear, unify people with various opinions and enlighten each other, then we have to acknowledge that multiculturalism is a barrier to progress. Multiculturalism is like an albatross around the neck of those who would love to see that we look beyond our racial differences and see that we are all humans created in the image of God.

Shaaya Ellis is a sophomore political science major with a classics minor. He can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.