OPINION: Mason's diverse population prevents hateful ignorance

Oberlin College canceled classes on Monday, March 4 after a there were reported sightings of KKK figures (photo courtesy of Stu Spivak/Flickr).
Oberlin College canceled classes on Monday, March 4 after a there were reported sightings of KKK figures (photo courtesy of Stu Spivak/Flickr).

I consider Mason’s diversity an asset, and I also believe exposure to culture’s outside one’s own is an integral part of the college experience. Thus, I was shocked to hear about the recent string of hate crimes at Oberlin College in Ohio. In the past month, students’ inboxes have been brimming with emails from administration in response to acts of racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism on the same campus that prides itself on being the first college to regularly admit female and African American students. It seems that the school’s message of acceptance has been lost on a few people, who have gone out of their way to vandalize walls with hateful graffiti.

With the topic of hate in the air, I would argue that hate is synonymous with ignorance, and ignorant people are not open to accepting unfamiliar beliefs. With the recent hate crimes taking place at Oberlin, this topic is now more relevant than ever. As the last straw, Oberlin cancelled classes this past week after an individual was spotted donning KKK regalia; instead of a typical school day, students attended various events to promote solidarity in the Oberlin community. How can we assure that Mason continues to be the incredibly diverse and accepting home away from home that it strives to be? College is a time to express oneself without worries of prejudice and hatred, so how can we as students maintain an environment of acceptance?

I believe it all bubbles down to being mindful. Recently, I overheard an acquaintance of mine reference a football play as “so gay.” Every day, people around me refer to their failed assignments as “retarded.” When did it become acceptable to use these words as negative adjectives? Most people do not even realize that they are emitting slurs when they speak in such a way; they just do it without thought, because they have been conditioned by their peers. By not being mindful of their actions, they are promoting the use of hateful language.

Part of being mindful is also educating oneself about the world around them, as to gain an awareness of unfamiliar customs. Mason offers limitless opportunities. Why not sign up for an introduction to world religions class, attend an international week activity or sit in one of the many free cultural lectures each week? Just opening up to those around you in classes could change your entire perspective. Mason students are some of the most interesting people out there, and every class is a melting pot of sorts. A simple discussion can give you invaluable insight. Additionally, we all chose to go to school right outside of the nation’s capital. Washington D.C. has a plethora of worldly experiences to cash in on. Just off the top of my head, I can suggest exploring the rich African American history of U-Street, tasting authentic Ethiopian food at one of the many traditional restaurants or attending the Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival.

At the very least of it, just aim to be understanding. In light of the events at Oberlin College this past month, I appreciate that, although Mason is so diverse, most students prove to be kind and accepting to all individuals. Ignorance is an important topic in today’s growing world, and committing crimes of hate never solves anything. There is truly a place for everyone at Mason. So instead of mocking someone because you do not fill the same niche, ask them about theirs, and finish your day as a more mindful individual. 

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