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The margins have a voice too

There is an unfulfilled potential

By Griffin Gardner, Halie Owens & Tiless Turnquest | Contributors

This is not an issue of the political left or political right. This is a matter of human dignity for minoritized students seeking to be heard. The question is do we truly value diversity? Is diversity merely the number of countries represented at our institution? Is it a quota for students of color? Or is diversity giving voice to students invited into our community?

For many Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP) students, Taylor is a bait and switch. Diverse students are desired for their culture, provided their ideas don’t challenge the institution. A narrative exists saying, “You are welcome to dance, cook, and paint, but let us brand you with our culture.” These students are provided a seat, but no voice, at the table. Some would argue they were never given a seat. Assimilation appears to be not just a recommendation, but a mandatory function of being at Taylor.

Western and Christian have become inseparable. A culture built on Christian principles becomes dangerous when the cultural influences become untraceable. The received message suggests anyone falling outside of Western Christian principles is not only unchristian, but a heretic. Worse yet, it claims God’s truth can only be found in Western Christian influences. This is categorically false.

“When a speaker advocates for racial integration in chapel, people question the biblical validity despite the speaker’s cited scriptural support.” (Photograph by Ruth Flores-Orellana)

“When a speaker advocates for racial integration in chapel, people question the biblical validity despite the speaker’s cited scriptural support.” (Photograph by Ruth Flores-Orellana)

This message becomes confusing to Christian minoritized populations whose faith is challenged as inauthentic. When a speaker advocates for racial integration in chapel, people question the biblical validity despite the speaker’s cited scriptural support. A Western lens can stifle many approaches to the Bible. The term “Social Gospel” is often used to suppress interpretations of the Bible favoring social change, an ironic critique. We must ask ourselves: what is the point of our Christian faith? What form does our faith take on Earth?

Taylor’s foundational statements provide examples of how to live in community with one another. An examination of the Life Together Covenant (LTC) and the Multicultural Philosophy Statement, provide a rich framework for these conversations to take place. These documents are not perfect, but serve as a healthy starting point to address diversity.

The LTC speaks to how Christians should live in community. As Taylor continues to host an increasingly diverse population, it’s worth asking how the LTC might change to accommodate a variety of cultures. It fails to appreciate the cultural emphasis on dance in several of our student populations. How should we proceed when one culture’s understanding of modesty restricts an expression of another’s cultural identity?

The Multicultural Philosophy Statement affirms the value of multicultural students. Students have observed a breakdown between idea and practice. When racial incidents occur, many go unreported due to a lack of faith in the disciplinary process. Many students never see consequences carried out for reported incidents. When no student or faculty member is found culpable, minority students live with the unresolved tension.

This tension creates a growing mistrust of the larger culture. OIP students often go from being a member of the majority culture to Taylor as a minority. Many students rarely find space to process this new cultural identity. They find themselves managing the emotions and expectations of the dominant culture, and rarely find settings for them to express honest emotions without being judged. Outbursts of discontent typically feed into negative cultural stereotypes, and only create further distance.

Taylor holds the potential to resolve this cultural dissonance. Unfortunately, the majority culture is blind to its own dominance.

“For change to occur the dominant voice must find a way to lower its volume and let others be heard,” said Director of Intercultural Program Felicia Case. “Sit down. Be humble.”

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