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Upon further review…

The column below was to be my best work ever… literally. I was actually happy to have written this particular column. And then I deleted it. What is below is a generic recreation of something I would have been proud to have published. It was not only polished and precise, but practically perfect as Mary Poppins would say. I guess I will be glad that I get published and that people have the opportunity to read what I write, while shutting up.

True diversity at UK stems from respect, understanding of others

Last semester contributing columnist Taylor Shelton wrote about the need for citizens to learn to respect differing opinions and one another. I cannot agree more with that idea. There have been a lot of sensitive issues throughout the Kernel’s pages and around campus for quite some time. For the most part, there has been healthy banter back and forth about the beliefs, values and morals.

Like Shelton, I also have noticed an unsavory amount of narrow-minded, slanted and sometimes disrespectful dialogue back and forth. This inability or lack of effort to understand each other is the reason we continue to be plagued by major issues over and over. Whether these reasons are political, cultural, religious or otherwise, until we take conscious looks into what issue is really at hand, we will constantly be fighting the same problems, denying each other the positive life changing experiences that come from understanding and knowing what we all represent. It is evident from the major issues here at UK that our cultural awareness is lacking. While we are diligently working to ensure progress in campus climate, it still remains that for every major campus issue there are many “isolated,” less publicized and often unreported incidents that affect students, faculty and staff on the individual level.

During Latin American Week last semester, the Latin American Student Organization held a forum to discuss the varying experiences of Latinos in America. One of the speakers mentioned how students conducting an interview for a winter holiday story approached her. The premise of the story was to highlight how various cultures celebrated their holidays and the interview was to gain some first-hand information about how a Latin American would celebrate the holiday. The individual on the panel who was approached for the interview expressed general dismay with the focus of the story and the implied nature of the interview. To this person, there was no way you could accurately represent what all Latinos did for the holidays with such a limited story that was so brief and only asked a couple of questions about such a broad, yet important, topic. What I took from that, in a nutshell, was that there was no proper way to conduct the story in that individual’s mind, but this is purely speculation.

A few weeks after the aforementioned event, the same students came into the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center to get similar information about Kwanzaa. This time I was able to observe the event as it transpired, and several things stuck out. First, it was Dead Week and the interviewer stated that the story needed to be done within two days. Then, I was surprised to witness the interviewers were in fact only looking for a couple of short answers and not very much depth. Finally, one interviewer said they did not know the MLK Center even existed on our campus.

There are lots of things I don’t know about on campus, but I would like to believe that if we are as adamant about diversity as we need to be, the MLK Center should be a landmark that all students know about. And, if not the MLK Center, we are in dire need of an open campus space that allows for a conscious cultural focus. Culture is the most descriptive part about us as human beings and inattentiveness to an individual’s culture has the potential to cause complete alienation and brutal discomfort, one of the main reasons we have such a strong focus on diversity here at UK.

On the other side, it’s important to be open to sharing and being open with our culture. How else do you propose to teach people? What good is shutting down every time someone readily shows that they are culturally unaware or ignorant? Use those precarious situations as opportunities to teach, instead of reporting about how your respective communities are stereotyped, take that opportunity to break down the stereotype yourself.

It’s important that during Black History Month and right before UK holds the 20th annual Cultural Diversity Festival, that we spend time trying to immerse ourselves and understand what we have to offer. From there, we can obtain the necessary interpersonal respect from not only a genuine and sincere understanding, but also patience on both ends.

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I have the privilege of having a diverse group of friends that give me a small glimpse into the world around me. I don’t preach diversity to gain accolades or get my name out there, I truly believe that when you are blessed with different individuals and experiences in your life, you will turn out to be a better person. I am sitting right now in the UK Student Center room211 where the Muslim Student Association holds it’s meetings every other Thursday. I am not Muslim, but I love and respect what the religion has to offer and the various cultures of the people involved in the organization. I have thrown my hat into that mix and all get along no problem, because instead of saying “they are different” or taking a prejudicial stance I just kick it with them like I would anyone else. Try it sometime.

Salute

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