Quite frankly, my experience at Xavier University as an African-American male was unexpected. A few semesters ago, my frustrations with ignorant Xavier students intensified when I experienced it firsthand. While working on an academic paper in front of the Gallagher Student Center Welcome Desk, I overheard a student worker say “nigger” with such confidence that I had to make sure that my loss of sleep wasn’t getting the best of me. Immediately, a friend of mine jumped up and began to express his disappointment with the situation.
Now, you might say that the student worker is “racist,” but let’s not jump the gun here. I have found it to be interesting that many students cannot say that they have been around an African American person (or any minorities at all) for most of their lives. It’s hard for someone to know appropriate conversation if their only interaction with minorities
is through the media.
It doesn’t surprise me when people clutch their purses or lock their car when I walk by or ask me if I go to Xavier, but does it matter? Yes, it really does, and it results in that ironic moment when ignorance isn’t bliss. My solution to this ignorance? Do your best to learn about people who are different from you. Without this practice, I wouldn’t know how tasty a concha (a sweet bread from Mexico) can be. I wouldn’t know that “breaking bread” had such a literal meaning at Shabbat dinners.
I wouldn’t know that jerk chicken isn’t that bad. That being said, let’s not allow our humanness to serve as an excuse for mistakes. At the end of the day, a stereotype only exists because, as humans, we love to be comfortable. It is impossible for us to bear the fruits of peace and love tomorrow if we don’t plant the seeds of courage and curiosity today.
American journalist Dorothy Thompson once said that “only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” I have witnessed this many times at Xavier: students are reluctant to engage with different people because of fear. We are the future, and you’ll never know until you try. Now, you may ask what happened to the student worker from earlier.
My friend and I met with her supervisor and we pleaded that we did not want her to be terminated, but we did want her to know the power of words in today’s society. Feeling that it was the right thing to do, I approached her a few days later and told her that I forgave her. Like that, peace was revived and ignorance found no purpose anymore. Now, my turkey goetta is waiting for me.