Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest columnist shares experience as student of color

By Mycal Ford, Guest Columnist

My name is Mycal Ford. I was the black face on the Pacific Lutheran University website holding my Bible in hand. You know me, but you don’t know me. So, come get to know me. Oftentimes, I dream: what would it be like to be enrolled at a university where black faces and brown smiles filled my campus, my classrooms and my hall. Some days, I feel like my spirit has been crushed, other days it is erected and strong. Every day I wake up hoping I will not have to deal with racist jokes or battle the ongoing tokenism that fails to demonstrate how diverse we are as a campus.

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Senior Mycal Ford said his “heart just dropped” when he picked up the Sept. 23 issue of the Mast. Photo couresy of Cahn Ngyuen.

I cringe when I hear, “wow, Mycal you are so articulate,” as if it is surprising for a first generation, able-bodied, low-income, straight Black male to eloquently wield words to pierce our minds and hearts. Every day I feel disconnected from my peers who question whether my presence was a result of affirmative action. I was not bred to take an S.A.T. or a G.R.E. or write a college level E.S.S.A.Y. Rather, I had to work against stereotypes to reach my goals.

There are minorities on this campus who feel isolated. This is not to say we need specialized programs, personal counseling or any other form of great support that already exists. Rather, we need to feel heard. We want to see professors who look like us, whose intersection of identity is not just race but also sex, class, faith and sexuality. We want our stories to be shared and not in the form of tokenism of the “Black perspective” or the “Latino Perspective.”

What does this mean then? This means that we collectively have to work together to bridge this isolation of students who are not just black, but identify as other alternative affinities on campus. I invite students in minority affinity groups to attend forums like the 10 year development plan for PLU 2020, Presidential Search Committee Forums, to participate in different media outlets and organizations. I invite you to apply for leadership positions to show that we do not only show up in numbers—but we can lead.

I dream of a day I can open an issue of the Mooring Mast and find diversity among staff. I dream of a day where professors look like me outside of a historically black university. I dream of a day when PLU’s curricula intersect with relevance to our students inclusive of the minority affinity groups. I dream of the day a column of this nature will be unnecessary to facilitate a conversation. I dream of a day that our PLU can collectively and explicitly articulate the definition and pursuit of Diversity.

In order to realize my dreams, perhaps it is time to have those difficult conversations that make us cringe. Friends, the demographic is changing in higher education—PLU included. If we would like to remain or establish an inclusive community, how can we match the fast-paced demographic?

I believe by engaging in these conversations we will build a shared understanding so what we can eventually bring about transformation that will realize my dreams that echo that of a great King.