If we learn anything, it’s race matters

Ryan Loew

When I came home for Easter last weekend, I was a little surprised when my aunt and uncle from Indiana asked me, “So what’s with this Chi Omega thing?”

I was just as startled when my brother, who lives in Cleveland, asked me the same question the day before.

I probably shouldn’t have been all that shocked. I knew The Associated Press had picked up the story and spread it across the country.

But something really bothered me. The Chi Omega story is a reminder of something I’ve learned in the past year.

At Kent State, race is a wound that just won’t heal.

When the Stater ran into trouble last semester over Aman Ali’s column, I inherited a mess. A new Stater editor is picked each semester, and the torch was being passed to me about when the controversy reached its peak. Let me tell you, that torch was red hot.

But I’ve learned a great deal from the experience.

For one, and this is a big one – race matters.

Take a look at the situation at Duke right now. Do you think that story would be getting as much play in the media if there wasn’t a racial angle? It wouldn’t.

And here at the Stater – take a look back at the Forum page for the past week. Half the letters, columns and editorials have something to do with race.

To say that race doesn’t matter is kidding oneself beyond all belief.

When contemplating how the Stater should learn and move on from Aman’s column, I went to JMC professor Barb Hipsman’s house to talk to her and her husband Bob, who works for the Akron Beacon Journal‘s opinion section, for some re-heated lasagna and thoughts on the situation.

I’ve forgotten the meal (possibly by choice), but I’ll remember the conversation for a long time.

As a white person, I will never know what it’s like to walk in a black person’s shoes experience the anger of being pulled over just for being black.

Hence a Chi Omega incident. They weren’t trying to be racist. They just didn’t understand what it’s like for a black person – what it’s like to deal with stereotypes throughout one’s life.

I will never know exactly what it’s like to be a black person, or anyone from another ethnicity for that matter.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll give up, go home and never try to understand what it’s like for a person of another skin color.

I’ll do whatever I can to understand your culture, to understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes. What else can I do really?

As Bob told me, that’s part of the human experience – learning what life is like for another person.

In terms of sheer student make-up, the number of minority students at Kent State has grown. Kent State is lauded as a diverse place to be. But incidents past and present may suggest otherwise.

Diversity is not about numbers. It is about having an appreciation for and understanding of other cultures.

Sure, if you’re white, you may sit next to a black student; you may have a black friend.

But incidents like Chi Omega’s mistake keep happening.

We’re not taking the time to understand one another, and I hope that changes.

Ryan Loew is a junior newspaper journalism major and editor of the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].