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Think before you talk

| Monday, February 20, 2017

On Feb. 10, I attended the iconic comedy show, the Keenan Revue. The comedy skits were hilarious, but one line that stood out from the rest for me. The news skit brought up Beyonce’s recent pregnancy announcement, stating, “Now there are more black people inside Beyonce than in any of my classes.” Many people laughed at this, but instead of finding it funny, I began to think about the truth of this statement. I know that Notre Dame is not a very diverse school, but I never took the time to think about it. The week of classes following the show, I paid attention to the people in my class and was shocked to find out that the Keenan skit was not wrong.

Coming from a town called Bolingbrook, and a high school that was exceedingly diverse, coming to Notre Dame was an interesting transition. In my high school, the makeup of the school was 38.5 percent Hispanic, 29 percent black, 20.5 percent white and many other ethnic backgrounds filled the remaining 12 percent. In comparison, the makeup of Notre Dame is 74 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic and only 4 percent black. I valued and appreciated the diversity in my high school, and realized it was something I took for granted. The interesting thing is that I am included in the majority now, yet I felt more comfortable back in Bolingbrook than I do here. I could not even imagine going from a school that was diverse to a school where I was a part of the 4 percent.

Notre Dame claims that, “Campus community is rich in diversity and committed to inclusion.” Yet, I read the other day in The Observer about a group of students harassing a student in their dorm, yelling disturbing racist phrases. Many dorms have a motto containing “community” in some regard, and the fact that people brought this negativity into a space in which they have to live is unacceptable. If community really was rich in diversity here, incidents like this should never occur. Students of any race, sexuality, gender or socioeconomic background should not have to be afraid to return to their own room. I witness microaggressions every day, and most people seem oblivious of the things they say.

We cannot change the diversity makeup of the campus, but we can help students feel welcomed. It saddens me that we fail to promote inclusion and diversity in many ways. What if the roles were reversed and you were the student sitting in the class feeling isolated because of your own ethnicity or the student hiding in the dorm because people thought it was something to joke about? It sounds cliche, but it needs to be pointed out that it is not something you would find funny. While I know anything in the Revue is not to be taken seriously, these kind of jokes are not isolated to the comedy show.

Even though the University lacks diversity, as students we should not joke about this, because it is not a laughing matter. People that find these kind of jokes funny are the ones that make small comments that offend other students. Although it is only a small remark, they add up and are definitely annoying. So the next time you want to joke about diversity here at Notre Dame, think before you talk.

John O’Brien
Feb. 16

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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