Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Senior Photographer

Performers of the Race at Cornell: Interactive presentation, hosted by the Intergroup Dialogue Project and ALANA in Barnes Hall on Nov. 3.

November 4, 2016

Students’ Personal Stories Reflect on Racial Diversity at Cornell

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Using a curtain to protect their identities, students narrated personal experiences concerning race to comment on the diversity of racial experience at Cornell at an event hosted by Cornell ALANA and the Intergroup Dialogue Project Thursday evening.

A Black-American female student spoke about growing up in a small town in Indiana. She said she enrolled in a private charter school where, for the first time in her life, she primarily interacted with Caucasians.

While it was “weird” playing with “non-black Barbie dolls” at elementary school and “black dolls” at home, she said she was able to adjust to her school’s “strikingly different demographic” because her parents had “made sure to introduce me to people of other races and ethnicities” growing up.

“I realized I have always been a floater,” she said. “I love what I love, and I am me.”

She also said that her experience with cheerleading throughout her education, continuing at Cornell, introduced her to students of “so many races and ethnicities.”

“I also love the Black community at Cornell. I met most of my friends through different social fun events, social justice events, and BWSN’s BOSS program, she said. “I still enjoy specific cultural social events, but also ones for people that I don’t identify with.”

Another female student — who identified as a mixed race Latina from Miami — reflected on her experience from move-in day. She said her mother was cleaning dirty dishes, and a girl mistook her for a housekeeper and asked her to clean to the mess outside her room. The speaker recalled the amount of effort it required to convince the girl otherwise.

A Korean-American male student addressed the frequent racial stereotyping of minority students on the popular social network Yik Yak. He said it is “harder for students of color to assimilate,” citing the demographic of the Greek community and dining hall segregation.

“Racism still exists and talking about it is still a social taboo,” he said. “If any change is to be made, then people have to be comfortable talking about their differences.”

A white female student discussed growing up believing “racism did not exist anymore.” She said her beliefs have since changed, and she now embraces “other conditions for the greater good and the happiness of God.”

“[I am] able to pursue racial reconciliation, because this is what Christ gave his life for,” she said. “The true Christian and the social justice activist are the same person.”

After the testimonials, audience members offered their own thoughts, experiences and potential solutions to racial barriers.

“[My] only hope is that meaningful conversations will convey the relative experiences of different communities,” one student said.