Growing up in a rural white town leaves a lot of room for ignorance. As it turns out, when only white people are around, there isn’t much of an incentive to talk about race beyond slavery and how MLK “fixed” everything. I grew up knowing racism (and other forms of oppression) were wrong, but not understanding how these different forms of oppression still exist in our society today.
Words are powerful. Silence can be even more powerful.
It wasn’t until I decided to join the Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience as a freshman–I knew I needed some diversity in my life–that I started hearing people of color talk about their own experiences. At MRULE, student leaders would facilitate weekly roundtable discussions on topics ranging from homelessness to sexuality to institutional racism. It was through a genuine community that I began learning, and I still remember light bulbs going off in my head throughout the year.
In the midst of seeing the world in radically new way, I realized how much this intercultural work meant to me. I decided to apply as an Intercultural Aide so I could facilitate MRULE roundtable discussions as well. My learning began to accelerate even more as I surrounded myself with co-workers who cared about social issues.
I will never fully understand certain social issues and no one perspective is representative of a whole sub-population. I still have more to learn today. Knowing the importance of lifelong learning, I desire to provide the communications skills nonprofits need to better aid the communities they serve.
Now I use my talents to foster spaces of understanding in- and outside of the RTD space. I have written and performed poetry about dehumanization, mental health, and my own white privilege. I have completed a public demonstration by painting all day in Wells Hall, encouraging conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement via sticky notes, prompts to respond to, and a space to talk. I enjoy attending cultural events such as Brown Pride, the Black Power Rally, and Satrang. Some friends and I are working on a movement to increase unity in diversity among Christians at MSU by providing spaces for listening and connection to happen. Most importantly, I have deeply enjoyed the many friendships I’ve made here at Michigan State University, because I know that a lot of problems in the world will never change until we begin joining together as one interconnected community.