Become a catalyst for diversity and equality

Posted on Oct 1 2013 - 8:31am by Adam Blackwell

The face of America is changing. When Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered the New World, he could have never imagined what it would become. Even the America of the 1950s and ‘60s, the America of great social change, was not similar to the cultural melting pot we’ve reached today.

America is closer to reaching its “melting pot” status than ever before. As social studies students in the ‘90s, we were all taught that America was considered a “melting pot” — many different cultures and groups melting into one. The idea of an American culture is finally showing a mix of many different cultures and groups.

This year, the first Indian-American woman won Miss America. Last year, we elected the first black president to a second term in office. Last year, more women were elected to Congress than ever before. In the past two years, President Obama has appointed more openly gay and female judges to positions than any president before. We are no longer an America controlled by the firm grasp of the heterosexual white male order.

Admittedly, many places are still controlled by this old order. Mississippi, and the Southern region in general, is one such place. Mississippi has never elected a minority governor. More women are beginning to appear in leadership positions across the state, but where are the racial minorities? Only one minority represents our state in the United States Congress; this statistic cannot be representative of Mississippi and its people.

Mississippi’s homogeneity in leadership streams into our own university. Thankfully, though, the grasp of the order is not nearly what it once was.

Women now hold high positions of leadership, both within the Lyceum and Associated Student Body. We see glimpses of racial diversity in our leadership and across the campus, though I’m sure it is not what it could or should be. We also see politically diverse people in positions of power on our campus.

Our university leadership is progressing, but the order still seems to have a grasp on our community. This problem has deep roots historically, socioeconomically and culturally.

We don’t want to end up with the same story as the legendary “machine” and the University of Alabama. I started to say here that we do not want to be compared to the University of Alabama at all, in light of recent events.  However, I think we do.

We want students (and already have many students) whom we can compare to the few sorority members at Alabama. They were brave enough to stand up for equality and stand up against the old order. Their story of fighting for the common good and creating opportunity for others should be emulated here.

The only way we can create change, especially within our own community, is to stand up. Many people before us have done so. Medgar Evers and thousands of others stood up for racial equality. Fannie Lou Hamer stood up for racial and gender equality. Hundreds of people stand up every day for marriage equality by living openly in a state where it is frankly difficult to do so.

All of these people felt discomfort. All of these people felt vulnerability. But, by overcoming these fears, they achieved greatness for us. Now, it’s our turn to achieve greatness for the future. Do not sit by quietly and accept the status quo. Do not let yourself become passive. Passivity feeds the “order.” Passivity feeds inequality.

The great, diverse status America has reached can easily and quickly decline. We cannot allow that to happen.

Adam Blackwell is a senior public policy leadership major from Natchez.