Opinion: CU’s lack of racial diversity isn’t the issue

The CU student section at a football game on Sept. 16, 2017. (Max Sassaman/CU Independent File)

CU Boulder is often criticized for being too white. However, having lived in Japan for 15 years where 98.1 percent of all people in the country are Japanese, criticism towards Japan for lacking in diversity was unheard of, even amongst my foreign friends and teachers.

CU Boulder is a predominantly white school because it resides in a predominantly white state. It should come as no surprise that CU is predominantly white. Nonetheless, many people find the 65.9 percent of the white people on this campus worth criticizing.

The general outrage towards lack of diversity lies in the assumption that racial diversity is the only way to provide college campuses with diverse perspectives, values and cultures. How is judging people based solely on race deemed acceptable, especially on a liberal campus like ours? Sexual orientation, race and religion are among the countless demographics used to describe a person. To simply categorize people based on race is ignorant and demonstrates a person’s unwillingness to overcome their implicit biases they hold towards certain races.

Lack of diversity isn’t the problem, the problem is assuming that race is the only defining factor of who a person is.

As a person of Japanese ancestry and samurai descent, it would be easy to think that I would have very traditional Japanese ideals. However, this is far from the truth. After living in the United States, going to an international school, traveling and forming bonds with people who come from various backgrounds, I know how unique each and every person can be.

While ethnicity certainly plays a role in shaping personal identity, one’s experiences, education, values and personal bonds are far more important in shaping people into who they are.

Cultural ambiguity is a foreign concept for many people. But after being exposed to Caucasians who speak perfect Japanese and Japanese people who don’t speak or know of anything about Japanese culture, I have realized that culture isn’t as simple as it seems. People can value different aspects of each culture.

This ambiguity also means being expected to abide by two completely different social norms with people from both sides of the spectrum assuming you are more accustomed to their culture, when in reality you are somewhere in the middle. For people who come from international backgrounds, it is very common for them to experience a cultural identity crisis. This is a phenomenon in which people feel isolated and struggle to find a sense of belonging.

Each of my siblings had radically different upbringings and thus distinct views on culture. My brother found it easier to abide by Japanese social norms because he always had many friends who attend traditional Japanese public schools. After living in the United States and attending an International School for the majority of her life, my sister needed time to adjust into these social norms upon entering a Japanese university because traditional Japanese values were foreign concepts to her. Even though I am proficient in English, I accept and appreciate many aspects of Japanese culture. For example, I practice meditation every night, which is a Buddhist practice.

Ultimately, a person’s ethnicity is not a full representation of a person’s values and overlooks many far too many personal qualities that make each and every one of us special. Categorizing people based on race and overlooking their personal qualities is the same thing as judging a book by its cover, without ever reading it.

When people say “CU Boulder is too white,” the race ratio isn’t the real issue. The problem lies within the people who are incapable of seeing beyond the racial barriers they have created themselves.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Mariko Nomi at mariko.nomi@colorado.edu. 

Mariko Nomi

I am a first-year student majoring in Economics and International Affairs. I enjoy listening to Genesis, Oasis and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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