Student opinion: Escape will only breed ignorance

By Markos Moulitsas

Today the Star ran the last of my four-part series on racism at NIU. Having been a project that dominated my life for the last couple of weeks, I was more than glad to have it finished and over with so I could return to the mundane world of Faculty Senate meetings and other reporter stuff.

Yet as I gathered the last interviews and typed the final words of the final story, I was overcome by a strange, uneasy feeling.

I was terribly happy to escape the ugliness of a racist world for the safety of my every day-to-day life. Sure, I could always talk against racism, fight ignorance and prejudice wherever I ran into it, yet I would always be looking in from another room and I could always close the door. My life, in my world, in my own detached selfishness.

And as I left the ugly reality of racism behind, it struck me that what was such an easy and trivial exercise for me would be impossible for anyone whose skin color or religious persuassion made them the target of bigotry and discrimination. They would never be able to escape who they were.

Nor should they ever have to! It truly is a sad commentary on our society when this debate is even necessary.

There is so much that people from different cultures could learn about each other. The benefits would be incalcuble, yet they remain unattained.

Many of you know or have read Pete Schuh, a reporter and columnist here at the Star. He has occular albanism, which makes his eyes perpetually wander from side-to-side, something over which he has no control.

When I first met him last summer, his eyes were the feature that most stood out about him. I would sit and talk to him, but since I couldn’t make true eye contact with him it made me feel very uncomfortable. Finaly I got my courage up one day and asked him about it.

We spent a few hours discussing it, and I don’t know about him, but I felt better for having been educated about something about which I didn’t understand and felt uneasy about.

And this is the part that gives me hope that our species will someday be able to get along:

A few days ago, I overheard Pete talking to somebody else here at the newsroom, and during their conversation, he made a casual reference to the problem with his eyes.

I was stunned. As I got to know Pete for who he was, and not what he was, such trivial differences such as his eye problem became so irrelevant to our friendship that I had forgotten it even existed. I could keep eye-contact with him and I wouldn’t even notice his eyes!

Now why couldn’t the same thing happen between our races? There are truly no physical differences or gulfs in beliefs between any of us that can form a permanent barrior to better understanding.

And to achieve this understanding we all need to enter the ugly world of racism and intolerance I so much wanted to escape. Sitting in the room with the closed door will never solve anything, only breed further ignorance.

But to open that door to the knowledge and understanding that currently sits on your doorstep can accomplish nothing but let in the solution.