UnLearn Week event on tensions helpful, but more to be done


Initially the Tensions event was going to compare the international student and the American minority student on Calvin’s campus. For example, a Chinese student from Beijing would talk about his or her differences with an American-born Chinese student.

The event coordinators also intended for there to be a dialogue between a student with a Dutch background and a student with a non-Dutch background. The event had a panel of Calvin students from many backgrounds, including African, African-American, Asian, Asian-American, Latino, Latino-American, white Dutch and white non-Dutch.

Some of the students described tensions between the groups, but the main discussion shifted to how these Calvin students felt about race overall. They shared personal experiences of how they were treated with ignorance.

One student from Ghana shared a story of how another Calvin student didn’t think people from Ghana knew what volleyball was. Another student is blonde and blue eyed but not Dutch, but people often assume that she is. Although some of these instances are funny, the students on the panel expressed feelings of discomfort and unease.

In regards to fixing these problems, the panel agreed that it’s best to not assume what someone else’s culture or race is, but to ask. Rather than saying, “do you eat rice with everything?” say, “what kind of food do you like to eat?”

There were also some positive stories shared — stories of how students were treated with respect. One girl said she hung out with a group of students from Nigeria and Ghana.

Those students tended to speak very fast, so she couldn’t always understand what they were saying. One of the girls from Nigeria then said to her, “Are we speaking too fast for you? I’ve been telling the other girls to slow down when they are speaking so that you can understand us better.”

The Tensions event went well overall. There was a lot of discussion, causing the event to last almost an hour longer than planned. I think what this event sparked, or at least what I took away from it, is that race is still an issue, even if people don’t want it to be, and is even prevalent here on Calvin’s campus.

Moreover, many students are interested in talking about race and learning about how it impacts other students. With that said, there’s definitely more that the Multicultural Student Advisory Board (MSAB) can do to raise awareness.

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