“Even the University of Minnesota, located in a state that is 98 percent white, requires its students to take ethnic-studies courses. Asked why multiculturalism is so important, Dean Fred Lukermann answered: As a national university, Minnesota has to offer a national curriculum… He added that after graduation many students move to cities like Chicago and Los Angeles and thus need to know about racial diversity.”
The necessity of racial diversity knowledge is not limited to racially diverse cities. Whether or not one encounters a mixed population on a daily basis, it is vital to understand the diversity of the world. The historic and even present day trading, conflicts, wars, exploration, and contributions to science, spirituality, and other subjects have had role players from every culture on earth. In order to understand the context of our lives, we need to understand what has happened and what is happening. Knowing about different cultures helps us understand the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the story behind “Blood Diamonds”, and why Native Americans are opposing mining bills. It gives meaning to words like Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien.
This sociopolitical knowledge is relevant in many aspects of life. More important than knowledge is the ability to interact with others with a level of understanding, respect, and perhaps even sensitivity. Instead of seeing a person as their stereotyped persona learned from the media or friends and family, you can see the nuances. To not see race, as some claim, is a lofty and possibly unrealistic goal. Instead, we can strive to see the similarities and appreciate the differences.
I plan to complete my service learning by tutoring disadvantaged children. While their race or economic status may differ from mine, my recognition of them as an equal does not. I understand that struggling at school can becaused by problems at home, a distant teacher, or an underlying deficiency not previously addressed. I hope to be a warm, understanding presence that can figure out how to help. While we may have differences, we have many similarities. I have needed tutoring and now it is my time to tutor. *If needed, I can update this blog after my first visit.