I am surprised and disappointed by the racial tension and divisions at NIU. We are a nation of immigrants and as such, we possess a shared culture rich in ethnic, racial and religious diversity. I believe this to be on of our country’s strengths. Some may brag that their ancestors sailed over on the Mayflower, the predecessors of others were brought here forcibly in the holds of slave ships, and still more fled religious persecution or economic imbalances. My own forbearers arrived because of the potato famine. No matter how we came to be here, we are all in the same boat. We are all doubly blessed to be here. We are fortunate because we enjoy the freedoms and opportunities of the greatest democracy on Earth.
People from all over the world want very much to come here to live. We at this university are again blessed because we have the benefit of a higher education. We are the best and brightest and as such we share a social responsibility to make this a better world for coming generations.
It saddens me to see the voluntary segregation that exists on campus. I know my life to be richer because of the friends I’ve made across racial, ethnic, religious and cultural lines. I believe dislike and mistrust exist because of misunderstanding and ignorance. How can we understand those we don’t know? How can we truly dislike people we come to know well?
If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. This is bumper sticker logic, at best; a cliche at worst but it has a ring of truth to it. Look around the campus. If you don’t like what you see, change it. The best place to start is with oneself.
Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Why am I here?” Are you here to pull fire alarms? Are you here for pizza delivery driver target practice, or to write profanity or racial slurs on bathroom walls? Did you enroll in college with the selfish intent of getting a diploma so you can make big bucks and own more material goods than your neighbors? Are you here to gain knowledge and grow as a person? Do you want to leave society somewhat better than you found it?
Perhaps we should strive to make friends with those different from ourselves. The increased understanding will add fuller dimensions to our personalities. Life at NIU is a microcosm of life in the real world. If you can’t make a difference here, what kind of responsible citizen will you be after graduation?