Openness to culture creates understanding
Eddie Solis Jr.
THE SANTA CLARA
January 22, 2014
Racial tensions are at the forefront of our country’s mind. This week, Santa Clara celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a justice rally. Focusing on understanding and equality, Max Nguyen, the director of the Multicultural Center, expressed the importance of diversity within our community.
The Santa Clara: What does diversity mean to you?
Max Nguyen: Diversity means celebrating all the various differences that come from each of us. We all have these different stories that causes us to perceive the world in a certain way.
Diversity is when you have all these different perspectives clashing with each other, but you want to be able to celebrate the fact that they are different. We then have all those different approaches and angles of looking at life.
TSC: In the midst of the racial issues in America, why does diversity matter?
Nguyen: Even though it’s 2015, people still don’t understand how the system has caused us to think in certain ways. That leads us to perceive people in ways that are unjust — racism, stereotyping, setting expectations that people can’t meet, subjugating people or culturally appropriating people in ways that are disrespectful.
TSC: How does this issue relate to Santa Clara?
Nguyen: Coming to Santa Clara, we all have the privilege of going to a university. Not many people have the opportunity to get an education as awesome as ours.
At the same time, that privilege of being in (a) private school in the United States is mostly attended by a majority white, upper-middle class. That’s who can afford college and you see that reflected in our demographics when you walk through school.
For some people, (there is) a lot of diversity (here), but for some people there’s not. What I’m really hoping for is (for) people at this school to realize their different privileges and see how their privileges allow them to do different things without them even thinking about it.
When you don’t have to think about something, that’s a privilege.
TSC: How can students promote diversity throughout campus?
Nguyen: Look at your own friend group and their backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality and examine if those people are the same as you. If they’re different, how can you make them even more different?
I feel like the greatest way to see the other side of the grass is to have those close friends who tell you, “This is my life and if you’re my friend, you will respect it.”
When you have those different kinds of friend groups that have very diverse opinions (and) perspectives, it broadens your own because you’ll be more empathetic (toward) those situations just because they’re your friend.
TSC: What helps with understanding diversity?
Nguyen: You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That means, when I went into college looking for friends with the same background, it was me looking for something to feel comfortable with. I realized that was the wrong way to do it. What helps you build yourself as a person is to do things that scare you and challenge your mindset.
TSC: Why is it important to be uncomfortable?
Nguyen: If you don’t have these uncomfortable conversations, no one’s going to talk about the issues. If you don’t talk about the problem, you’re ignoring the elephant in the room. There’s this huge problem and we all have to work to solve it, but we can’t do that with colorblindness and saying, “Oh, you’re making a race issue out of something that shouldn’t be an issue.” Someone being offended about it means that there’s still an issue.
TSC: What advice can you give Broncos?
Nguyen: Be the best storyteller and listener that you can be. We all have these different stories from our life experiences that we want to share with others, but you also want to be a good listener as far as listening to other people’s stories. They bring us together. They connect us. It can bring us to a oneness.
Contact Eddie Solis Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.