In the past year, discussions regarding race, religion, gender and sexuality have played a major role in the national dialogue about diversity. At Xavier, approximately 26 percent of students are considered to be “multicultural students.” It’s no secret that a majority of students on this campus are white and Catholic, and yet hundreds of students on this campus come from other backgrounds: black, Latino, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ and countless others. These articles are designed to provide a platform for a group of students to voice their concerns about diversity on Xavier’s campus. In the first part of our story, a few students answer the question, what is it like to be considered a minority at Xavier?
Disclaimer: The students interviewed represent only a small sampling of diverse backgrounds. The students in this article cannot possibly speak for their entire cultural community, as they offer only one perspective.
Junior and newly elected Administrative Vice President Josh DeVincenzo was born in El Salvador and acquired his U.S. citizenship as a child. “It’s not really obvious that we’re minorities until someone says it,” DeVincenzo said. While DeVincenzo thinks Xavier is
welcoming of diversity, he also finds the response of some students to be frustrating.
“For me, the biggest thing is when everyone refers to our whole demographic as Mexican,” he said. “It’s important to understand that there are different identities within the Hispanic race.” DeVincenzo thinks people do not expect Latino students “to do big things.”
“(The Latino community at Xavier has) been doing everything in our power to prove people wrong. We belong here just as much as anyone else,” he said. For DeVincenzo, seeing Xavier recruitment pamphlets portraying the campus as diverse is a goal, but not necessarily an accurate depiction.
“I’d like to see (Xavier) invest the time, the resources into actually implementing those types of diversity,” DeVincenzo said.
Juanita Soto, a first-generation Mexican American, is a senior at Xavier. Her parents came to the United States in the 1980s. “Xavier has been a really welcoming and inclusive environment,” Soto said. “I know they’re trying to improve their diversity and inclusion.”
For Soto, however, sometimes it is the students who don’t reflect an open attitude towards diversity. “Sometimes (students) can be a little ignorant,” Soto said. “When I tell people that I’m on a full-ride scholarship … they’re in awe to see that, because my parents make below the
poverty line. So seeing a Latino coming to a really prestigious university, they’re shocked to see that.”
Soto thinks that it’s important for diverse students to collaborate. “To be honest, the cultural groups on campus are very segregated,” Soto said. “We need to see more working together.”
Sophomore Taylor Liggins also talked about her identity as a Black woman on Xavier’s campus. Because she attended a mostly Black elementary school and a mostly white middle and high school, Liggins says she sometimes struggles to fit into either the black or white community at Xavier.
“I never completely felt that I fit in with the Black community,” Liggins said. “I think a lot of the times (people) thought of me as, ‘oh she’s too white’ … But with white students, you’re still seen as Black. So I’m never quite fitting in,” Liggins said. Liggins said that having the opportunity to talk with other black students is necessary. “Having those spaces to go and identify with the black community is important. Biologically, we’re all very similar, but culturally… we grew up with different experiences (than other students).”
Liggins also believes
that the small incidents are important to address. Liggins once had an older man spit on her and call her the “N-word,” but what sticks with her the most are the moments of casual or subtle discrimination. “Even something as simple as being called your wrong name – it may, again, seem trivial, but … it’s like you can’t separate us or differentiate us,” Liggins said. “It’s those situations, it’s not an outright ‘I hate you,’ but … what do you think of me, what do you think of my culture and what do you think of my community?”
Senior Chuma Nnawulezi is the son of a Nigerian father and a Black American mother, and identifies with both Black and African American communities. Nnawulezi thinks it’s common for people to identify closely with people with whom they have the most in common, but he struggles with this on Xavier’s campus. “There are many spaces where I feel isolated – isolated in my experience,” he said. Nnawulezi feels there are certain expectations assigned to him over which he has no control. For example, he is expected to be the “expert” on race issues in his classes. According to Nnawulezi, this sometimes happens in his English classes.
“ When there’s a black character in the book… some eyes start peering over to you like, okay, so what do Black people think about this?” Nnawulezi said. “Besides being an expert in Black history, you’re also a spokesman for Black people.” Nnawulezi also thinks that the dangers of stereotyping emerge in small reactions from others. “If I could count the amount of times … where people have, one, assumed that I was on the basketball team, or assumed that I was an athlete of some sort, it would be more than a hundred times,” Nnawulezi said.
According to Nnawulezi, this makes him feel as though there are not high expectations for him academically. Nnawulezi believes that Xavier could do a better job of handling issues surrounding diversity, such as improving minority student retention or improving support services to those students. “I do think the services are in place, but I don’t think they’re being fully utilized to their capacity,” Nnawulezi said.