Elias Atienza is a history junior and the Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Starting in Fall 2018, students who identify as a member of an underrepresented group can choose to be part of a Cross Cultural Experience (CCE) Week of Welcome (WOW)group or a regular WOW group.
“It encompasses all of these marginalized groups that don’t necessarily identify as a Cal Poly student because it’s a predominantly white institution,” animal science junior and CCEWOW leader Tim Guerzon said in article published in the May 15 issue of Mustang News. “This program helps further immerse themselves in the community that we have here in terms of cross cultural experience, centers and other resources.”
The idea is built on the concern that minority students do not feel welcomed on campus. They don’t feel as if they are Cal Poly students. I understand that concern, especially as someone who is a person of color and has at times felt alienated and alone at this school. My entire first year, I felt like I was an island in a sea of loneliness and despair.
I’ve seen racism with my very own eyes, I’ve experienced it and I understand it well. Racism exists. Anyone who denies it is either blind to it or is a wishful thinker. I wish racism didn’t happen. But it does. This country has an ugly history with racism that it has not successfully shaken off.
However, separating these groups does not accomplish anything. First, it reinforces the perception that Cal Poly is a white institution. While all minority students are doing their own thing, none of the white freshmen or WOW leaders will be meeting any underrepresented groups. It’s racial separatism and something that would reinforce the de facto separatism instead of fixing it.
For decades, we fought for the right to be integrated into society. We fought to be known as Americans instead of being cast off as people with different skin colors despite concentrated efforts by white racial separatists.
There seems to be a continued effort to separate us based on race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Some believe minority students have to be separated from others in order for us to feel welcomed and white people somehow pose a threat to our identities as people of color.
If anything, CCE should be a program for all students to attend. Students of all backgrounds should get to know the cultures of everyone to get the sense of community so many people are not getting. Instead of saying that we have to separate each other further along racial lines, we should be integrating so everyone can see the richness in other cultures.
Racism isn’t over. It may never be over as long as we live. But to continue separating each other only makes this issue worse.