#ItsTime to start
Diversity Council | Monday, January 30, 2017
My name is Samuel Cho and I’m currently one of the two co-chairs of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame (DC). I spent a majority of my college career at Notre Dame advocating for diversity and inclusion on campus whether it was by being involved in the Diversity Council, the Asian American Association or PRISM. I’ve participated in events of activism on campus that promoted the awareness of racial and social injustices both in our country and on our campus. This was all thanks to the fact that in 2015 I joined the Diversity Council as a representative for the Asian American Association.
In the time since, I tricked enough people to think I was actually capable of leading any organization, let alone one as important as the DC, and ran successfully to be the new co-chair. As I announced on Facebook the results of the election to my friends and family, I was greeted with congratulations regarding my effort, my drive and my passion for diversity and inclusion on Notre Dame’s campus. My aunt praised me, a ton of my friends both at Notre Dame and back home were happy for me and even my AP European History teacher from high school left a heartwarming message on my timeline. But at the end of the day, no one asked me why. Why did I want to lead a council of student representatives dedicated to diversity and inclusion here at Notre Dame? Granted, it’s an odd response. Good news is just that: good. The relative joy or excitement I feel for someone when they share good news eclipses the past, the process of reaching that point where they are now. But the past is motivation. It can’t be forgotten or ignored.
When I became a Diversity Council representative, I started to see things in a whole new light. I suddenly became aware and felt this responsibility to be an advocate of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of my student life. But, I also felt tired knowing how hard it would be to really change the climate on this campus. I felt alone and exasperated when conversations around diversity were either dismissed or joked about. I suddenly realized what it really meant to be a minority.
As all Californians do, I have to let everyone that I’ve ever met know that I grew up in California. It’s sad, but I definitely took diversity for granted because it was already so ingrained in my life. Coming to Notre Dame I see now how lucky I was to have grown up in such an inclusive community where I was welcomed at my friend Samantha’s house for Christmas since my parents usually worked on that holiday to earn a few extra bucks; where I was invited to witness a puja every time my friend Proma’s family celebrated a milestone in their live; and where Sam and Proma would come over for a meal on New Year’s to eat the 떡국 (tteokguk) my mom prepared to celebrate the new year. It’s these things I grew up with and what I considered as “normal” my entire life. But it’s these very same things that Notre Dame is missing at its core. The sharing of culture. The inclusion of all walks of life. More than just handing out free food at an event, but actually understanding and recognizing the path people, of all colors, took to be where they are today. It’s for this reason that I am passionate about this organization and why I want to see Notre Dame as a community where people could freely share their entire lives with abandon.
But, unfortunately, I’ve seen on this campus both terminology mired in history by discrimination and violence and derogatory remarks targeted towards underrepresented communities. And to those that have said or written those very comments that serve no purpose but to attack the root of someone’s identity, I give you the benefit of the doubt. Just this once. I truly want to believe that nobody on this campus holds insidious intentions to hurt or denigrate any of their peers. I know that Notre Dame won’t change its campus climate overnight. But I also know that it’ll take the efforts of everyone of us, big or small, to truly make a difference. So I ask you to get involved, read the points of view of those who did not grow up the way you did, anything really. Because once we share that combination of knowledge and empathy, we can truly be a community worth boasting.
That is my motivation. #ItsTime to start thinking about yours.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.