RE: Wash. U. is segregated

Jonathan Howard | op-ed Submission

Last weekend, I logged onto Facebook to see what was going on. As I studied my newsfeed (which has changed 15 times in two years), some pretty striking statuses came to my attention. They spoke of ignorance and racism, specifically targeting some freshman girl, Claire Ferguson. I saw several different statuses as I scrolled down, and wondered what was going on. They also mentioned StudLife, in some cases accusing them of being racist too. These statuses were so emotionally charged. You would’ve thought this girl went up to “the black table” and personally called everyone sitting there the “n word”, with the editors of StudLife hyping it up in the background screaming “Take that, take that!”

I went to the article link and started reading. I had to see what was up. I waited… I waited… so…what’s wrong? After reading this all I could do is laugh. This article turned out to be a very well-written op-ed piece, by an astute freshman simply explaining some keen observations she’s made in her two months or so at Washington University.

Whether we agree with Claire’s observations or not, she brought to light something that is quite obvious at Wash. U. People group themselves by comfort and affiliation. If you’re of a certain race, you likely hang around with a lot of people of that race. If you’re from a certain geographic area, you may choose to affiliate with people from that location. If you’re part of a certain club, Greek organization or team, chances are you like to be with those people. Nothing is wrong with this; it’s natural. People like being comfortable, and being around those similar to you is comfortable. How I interpreted this op-ed is that here at Wash. U. we may be taking this to an extreme, and when someone chooses to expand past this comfort zone they don’t feel like they can. Not enough people share this desire to expand past their comfort zone. Hence, we limit ourselves and divide ourselves.

I understand some people or groups are all up in arms about this column because nobody likes being called out. But the point is: it was an op-ed, which means it was an opinion. In America, you are allowed to have those; get over it. And the article was very thought-provoking. In America, you are allowed to do that; get over it. And lastly, Claire is right. As a black male on this campus, I have constantly felt like people segregate themselves. Would you feel comfortable going to a Korean Students Association meeting? I sure wouldn’t. And I know plenty of people who wouldn’t feel comfortable going to an Association of Black Students meeting. But understand that this isn’t simply a race thing. It’s a comfort zone. I am not defined by my race; I have several different affiliations. I also segregate myself by plenty of them. The op-ed was challenging me to not do so.

In response to those who threw an elementary school fit about this piece, shame on you. Read it for what it is, not what you want to accuse it of being. For those who went further and sent Claire Ferguson accusatory and aggressive emails, trying to curb her boldness of thought, shame on you even more. Grow up and realize that in life you won’t always agree with people’s opinions, but you should respect them. I applaud Claire for her column, and hope more people on our campus will challenge the social boundaries we create.

Jonathan Howard is a senior in the Olin School of Business.

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