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Giving a voice to the voiceless at Notre Dame

| Thursday, March 6, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to be a guest on a California-based radio talk show on which a panel of intellectuals and myself discussed instances of racism on university campuses across the nation and the reasons for the rise in such incidents.

Theories varied from the assumption that the reelection of Obama fueled the animosity that ethnic individuals faced — which I found to be a stretch — to ideas that millennials taught to be “color-blind” become essentially ignorant of cultural and racial differences.

We left the conversation with no concrete answer on the idea of post-racial America. However, it was unanimous that post-racism is nothing more than a theory most individuals admit is preferred in a perfect world, but is essentially unrealistic in practice for various reasons.

During this conversation I had the opportunity to hear from black students from UCLA and Michigan who shared their experiences with racism and prejudices in which their merit was questioned because of their skin color. After listening to instances of racism across the nation, I felt inadequate in contributing to the conversation considering the progress Notre Dame has been making in becoming more inclusive and significantly less ignorant in terms of race relations.

UCLA has been on the forefront lately in terms of race relations, in particular with their video “33,” in which black students speak out about being a minority and feeling unwelcome at UCLA, a feeling I can guarantee more people than myself can relate with at Notre Dame.

A relation can be made between public UCLA and private Notre Dame in terms of the academic rigor expected of both and the question of affirmative action that comes up for most ethnic students during their time in college. But there are still distinct differences between the two.

Back to the radio show; the ignorant encounters I have faced at Notre Dame seem insignificant in comparison to the stories these men shared. I remain so focused on the negatives — the minute minority of those who voice their naïve opinions of racism and prejudices and those who undermine the concerns of minorities on campus — that I forget that there exists individuals at this university who are anything but ignorant.

I forget about those who care about the “spirit of inclusion” Notre Dame attempts to emit. When the well-meaning people are masked by the ignorant, it is difficult to be happy with your surroundings. Nobody wants to feel unwelcome in a place where they are automatically supposed to fit in and conform to social norms. Even further, it is difficult to accept people even when their intentions are well-meaning but wholly uninformed.

I forget about the Office of Student Affairs and the strides the University has been making in the past year alone in bringing Notre Dame closer to its roots of inclusion and acceptance. Catholicism, after all is based on inclusion and acceptance of those of different backgrounds.

We are far from a perfect university. We are no UC Berkeley. We are not some liberal arts college that embraces everything Notre Dame is against. If that is what I wanted I should have gone there. But I didn’t.

I like Notre Dame because I am the minority, both phenotypically and mentally. As much as I like to complain about my disdain for a select group of individuals at this university, I actually enjoy it. I thrive in being able to instill commentary and reflection in others, though feedback may be negative in many cases. Even greater, there are those who cancel out the ignorance and make life here slightly more bearable.

I like Notre Dame because I can educate those who do not understand how to deal with cultural differences. I can call people out for their public ignorance and better be able to learn how to deal with difficult individuals I will surely encounter later in life. I like to think that I heighten self-awareness in those who would otherwise remain comfortable in their homogenous lifestyle, never encountering those with varying opinions or life experiences.

Further, I like to believe that I am providing people with a voice where they would otherwise be too afraid to break the fabric of homogeneity. When you feel like a character in and Orwell book for bringing up social concerns and for not absolutely loving Notre Dame, it’s hard not to feel like the secret Notre Dame allegiance committee is constantly observing you. Us outliers are out here; you just have to find us.

Katrina Linden is a sophomore English and Latino Studies major living in Lewis Hall.

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

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

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About Katrina Linden

Katrina Linden is a sophomore English and Latino Studies major living in Lewis Hall.

Contact Katrina