Gabriel Niforatos | Friday, September 7, 2018
Finally we had arrived. After 20 hours of straight driving from New Mexico in a journey-across-the-country road trip in preparation for my sophomore year of college, we had arrived in Chicago to see some relatives. As we drove around the downtown area, several things came to mind and I want to share them as an important preface to the tone of this article. First, let me say that I am from Chicago. I lived there until I was 7 years old before I moved to New Mexico. Chicago is a wounded city to say the least, and important work remains to be done so that it gains some healing for the socioeconomic gap and war that is taking place there. That being said, I do not believe that it is because of the youth that this war is occurring. There are many issues with the political hierarchy, starting with Washington, that have provided the tragic spark to the now raging bonfire of hatred for difference that pervades modern culture and has triggered this conflict.
With all of this being said, spending time in Chicago was surprisingly refreshing. Of course, one notices the tangible pain and struggle in this city. It can be felt as clearly as the humidity that thickens the air. But it goes much deeper than this. Among the sea of cars and people, atop the skyscrapers that pierce the urban storm clouds, in the backstreets and alleys, there is a potential for change. It is a feeling that is subtler than the perceptible pain and structural inequality that pervades this city, but perhaps even more powerful. And it is a feeling that is held in the hands of our nation’s youth.
Youth that can walk the streets with their heads held high despite the knowledge that they may take a bullet around the street corner. This kind of confidence, confidence in the strength of oneself to make a difference in the corner of their world, confidence that one is the color in a universe of alleyways, fire escapes and manmade pillars of creation, is the kind of invigoration that made me burn to get back to campus with a heart set to instigating change. Chicago is in the back alley of Notre Dame. We are not isolated to the issues of the world. After our dorm chants die down, after football games end, there is a world full of cities and little Chi towns where we can make a difference. And we can make a difference.
Of course, Notre Dame has work to do. We have a campus that is 70 percent white. Even though many of them are truly smart and fully deserve their posts, the teaching positions seem to be comprised mainly of older white males and are lacking diversity in gender and certainly in ethnicity. However, the important thing is that Notre Dame tries to be inclusive. All of my friends know that I am not Catholic and am Jewish and yet I do not feel like this is a point of contention to my sense of belonging. To be completely honest, it is sometimes difficult looking white when I am really not. I am Cherokee, Jewish and Greek, a conglomeration of cultures that have rich history, art and a story of contrasts in the pain and triumphs that they have faced. With that background, I find that there is sometimes a gap between me and my peers. However, I truly believe in the power of diversity and difference–and youth–to bridge this gap.
How can we make change? This is not a simple answer and that is a very good thing. It may be by joining a club for your ethnicity, your passion, a hobby or an interest. It can be something as simple as being who you are and not caring, leading others by example. Your voice can speak through class, in the essays you write, the friends you have, the experiences that you share. The important thing is find and let your voice take on the power it has.
Let’s not be passive. Let’s not dampen our voice. We need to be the generation that does something about the blatant disrespect and intolerance for people of different cultures, beliefs and creeds. Believe in the power of your ballot. Find your voice artistically. Run for office. But most importantly, have the confidence that you can walk at campus with your head held high, with the power to transform your world as soon as you turn the corner.
Gabriel Niforatos is a sophomore who has diverse interests ranging from political science to music. When he’s not at school, he is busy hiking and running in the New Mexico mountain range. His email is [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.