Communication key to understanding

At the end of last semester, we sat down with the executive board of the Kent State chapter of the NAACP and members of the Kent State community from students to residence hall directors. These individuals took advantage of the opportunity to get their voices heard during one of our first open forums between students and the Daily Kent Stater.

We discussed general issues such as dealing with troublesome roommates and the academic advising “run-around” most students are familiar with, as well as issues central to Kent State’s black community: the lack of diversity among the faculty, fighting stereotypes and determining what it means to be a leader.

Here are just a few moments from the nearly two-hour discussion:

– “I think if you’re a majority, it’s very easy to be completely blind that there’s anything going on . If you ask a lot of non-minority students if there’s a problem, they’ll say, ‘No, no, no. Everybody’s the same. I look at everybody the same.’ I think it’s very easy to be blind and to choose to be blind.”

– “He thought he was black I guess . If that’s how you grew up and that’s what you believe is you and you like that about yourself, that’s fine. Do you, but don’t try to quiz me on my culture like I don’t know nothing. He’s telling me about Tupac and how he can so feel Tupac like he so knew what he was going through — I’m like, dawg, I don’t even feel Tupac.”

– “When I walk past someone and I’m smiling at you — not that those negative stereotypes that you’ve already imaged, not that they should disappear, but I’m trying to break that mold. So in case you did see a negative stereotype, I’m trying to be the one to step up and say, ‘Hey, it’s not true.'”

– “I believe that it takes one person to make a difference on this campus. And if you feel as though we’re not united as a black community, then maybe you should be the person who says, ‘well, me and my 10 friends are going to go to a Black United Students meeting. Or we’re going to be the 10 people to go to the NAACP meeting.’ I think that’s the only way to start because there’s going to be division between the black community because we’re all a little different. But on certain points, we need to come together as a whole. “

– “My issue is that a lot of times we look at people as the almighty. You know what I’m saying? We look up to people, and we hold them to unattainable standards a lot of times. When you are a leader, especially on a campus where the diversity is off and it’s skewed, like Preston just said, it’s very stressful, because we have to play savior to everyone. But people oftentimes want to point the finger and say, ‘oh this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong and this is wrong,’ when we don’t adopt the mindset that we are all leaders. If I look at you and say, ‘you know what, just because you don’t have a title — the only difference between me and you is the fact that you don’t have a title behind your name. A lot of times we are waiting on somebody else to step up and make the move, when actually we hold the power within ourselves.

At what point do we decide, you know what? This is an issue. I don’t like it. Let me do something about it, rather than waiting on x person over here who may have 50 other things and a different agenda to take it forward. You know what I’m saying?

I mean, we need to respect each other as far as the differences that we possess and embrace those things that make us the same. Because when we do that, we can move forward. That’s why people on this campus who are outside of our ethnic group cannot understand fully our struggles from day to day and the lifestyle that we lead because we don’t understand it all the way. And when we seek that out for ourselves, and we look at that, and we actually turn inward and say, ‘How can I apply that?’ then we can address others. Because if we’re confused, everyone is going to be confused right along with us.”