Cultural centers work for unity, not segregation

We have to make our own choices regarding campus involvement and activism.

Representatives of the various cultural centers have considered the points addressed by Maggie Habashy’s Feb. 13 column “Self-segregation at Coffman Union” and Ayah Helmy’s Feb. 22 guest column “Ignoring the self-segregation” on the segregation that seems to exist in Coffman Union. Perhaps it is understandable that some people feel “intimidated” within the environment of the cultural centers on the second floor of Coffman. One may not know how receptive these individual groups are. However, this does not apply to just Coffman, but anywhere on campus and especially in a new and unfamiliar environment.

Free food is, in reality, an incentive for students to drop by. There is diligent effort made at this time to persuade individuals to get familiarized, informed and invited to future efforts on and off campus. Students of all backgrounds are invited, and there are no prerequisites to join.

The analogies that also were mentioned by Habashy and Helmy in reference to these groups as cliques, rather than communities are a misrepresentation and overgeneralization. Our goals as multicultural students are to be an international community that welcomes students of similar and different nationalities. Our agenda is simple, to show the true colors of our demographic backgrounds. The University has allowed the existence of the multicultural centers. The centers promote self-autonomy; at the same time we expand, express and celebrate our cultures. It is a symbiotic relationship because both the University and the cultural groups can educate one another.

Cooperation between the unions and the cultural centers has been active. On Jan. 16, all of the groups came together, discussed issues, resolved them and even have advertised their events to the other cultural centers. We are collaborating to improve our efforts to have our voices heard and recruit new officers every year. Annual elections take place and positions are available for those who wish to run. We have new members every semester in our student groups; these new faces, in turn, innovate our agendas.

As students of the University, we have a choice to make, whether we want to step outside our comfort zones or not. It is natural to feel awkward, embarrassed and separated within new experiences. But in the long run, being acquainted with someone who is from a culture different from yours can bring insightful lessons to the encounter. Let us not forget that there is a binding tie regardless of the cultural disparities, the element of humanity in us.

As a result, on behalf of the following cultural centers: Al-Madinah Student Cultural Center, American Indian Student Cultural Center, Asian-American Student Union, Black Student Union, La Raza Student Cultural Center, Minnesota International Student Association, Queer Student Cultural Center, Somali Student Association, Oromia Student Union, PRISM Multicultural Journalism Group, Minnesota Student Association, and Disabled Student Cultural Center want to welcome all members of the University.

Anthony Carranza is a member of La Raza Student Cultural Center and a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]