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ISSUE 116 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/11/2002

Sister Speaks

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 11, 2002

Dear Sister,

I am a multicultural student. And I feel that many of the multicultural students spend most of their time teaching others about their own culture, instead of learning more about their own culture. What can I do to educate myself so that once I graduate, I will be able to deal with issues that my race will face within society? Sincerely, El Padrino

Dear El Padrino, This is an issue that many students of color face on predominately white campuses or in environments where there are a limited number of people who are not in the dominant group. One problem is that many times, “multicultural” students are grouped into the “other” category and not seen as individuals. This sentiment allows the spotlight to be constantly shining their way and they feel singled out in their experience. We all have different backgrounds and cultures and this should always be regarded cross-culturally. As far as our obligation to teach, that is part of the growth experience. It should not be an obligation, but it is part of the process. In helping others to gain knowledge and understanding, we learn more about ourselves. Identity encompasses all that one is as a person. This goes outside of the realm of race and class that we have been so conditioned to recognize over and above other features of ourselves and others. When you leave the campus, you will have various gifts to offer to others because you will have received the best of both worlds. You will have maintained who you are by not being forced to assimilate or conform and youve learned from others who participated in the teaching as well. Many times, the best way to maintain your identity is to be outside of what is so familiar to you. This way, you learn to appreciate who you are and where you come from. Just because you are outside of that familiar space does not mean that you’ll abandon it forever. Keep abreast with what is going on in your respective community away from St. Olaf, stay involved in the “multicultural” organizations and events on campus, and remember that you are not the first person to go through this and you certainly will not be the last. Knowing yourself is the first step in getting to know others.

Dear Sister, Sometimes when I go to the caf, as I walk with my tray to take my seat, I always see that first table full of students of color sitting together. Its almost like I dont belong there or the table is reserved for “non-whites.” Why do all the students of color sit together in the cafeteria? Sincerely, Wondering in the caf

Dear Wondering, I often wonder why no one ever flipped that question around to ask why the white students always sit together and never want to sit with the students of color. It is not true that students of color always sit together. It just seems that way because they are the “different” crowd and this is most evident when a group of them are sitting in one area. We all have various interests and perspectives about campus life. Hence not all of us are football players, have dark skin, or listen to rap music. The concept of the students of color sitting together also has something to do with building some sort of comfort zone. At a predominantly white school, it becomes difficult to find that familiar association on a regular basis with those who can best identify with you. College helps to get over this feeling of being “left out”, but being around those who know what you are going through is most comforting. Imagine being the only one in class or in your corridor or floor who is of color. When it is time to eat, this is one of the only times that students of color are able to engage in the type of community that they long for. For others, this may be a community of friends or teammates. So do not be intimidated next time you see students of color sitting together in what seems like those “special tables” in the cafeteria. If you think about it, this is the same thing that is going on in the rest of the cafeteria when the jocks sit together or people in the same corridor eat together or even people meeting to talk about what happened in class. Just like those at that table, each group has something in common and quite frankly, they just want to talk about it over breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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