Outside Looking In: Divided from the roots

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Saad Mansoor

Historically, the United States has been a nation divided.

American society is not like the united society that exists in Pakistan. Back home, everyone follows the same set of acceptable cultural norms, while America is made up of 11 culturally diverse regions that could easily be their own countries.

The presence of so many cultures makes America extremely diverse. However, diversity does not guarantee inclusivity, and the existence of so many distinct cultures makes conflict inevitable. American disunity was at its peak during the Civil War, and there were decades of severe division during the 20th century.

Fast forward to today, and the current political landscape has made America more divisive than ever.

Differing viewpoints play an integral role in how every aspect of society functions. It is something every kid growing up in America is accustomed.

America is polarized across liberal and conservative party lines, and Lehigh reflects this divide.

In my previous column, I talked about the three factions — Greek life, student-athletes and everyone else — that exist at this school. I urged people to make an effort to bridge the gap.

In a 2015 online survey available to all Lehigh undergraduates, 101 out of 105 students said there was a divide between Greek and non-Greek students at Lehigh.

Children should be taught about the importance of unity and diversity starting in kindergarten. The lack of motivation to introduce such curriculum by lawmakers is one of the major reasons why issues arise over differing viewpoints.

Ha Dao, ’20, wanted to join a fraternity his freshman year — however, he decided not to. Dao feared he would lose some of his friends if he joined and also didn’t want to feel pressured to go out. He believes there are generally no issues between Greeks and non-Greeks, but differences at times lead to tension and negative stereotypes around campus.

No one can forget when UMOJA house was vandalized in 2013. The graffiti of racial slurs sprayed in red by fraternity representatives shows just how dangerous things can get when issues arise over differences.

However, I believe college is an environment where people should explore and express themselves.

There is nothing more close-minded than not affiliating with someone just because they are a part of Greek life.

At times people make statements about Greek life that undermine everyone within it. To me, such level of ignorance is unfathomable. I’ve heard people say things like, “All frat guys want to do is sleep with you,” and “Why should I be friends with people who pay for friends?”

Student athletes should also try to act as leaders on campus to bring each faction closer. People on campus have false misconceptions, such as student athletes are only friends with each other or all student athletes receive special treatment. We should stop stereotyping this group.

Having grown up in a Pakistani society where everyone has the same beliefs made me feel united with every person with whom I interacted. These cultural commonalities make conversations extremely personal — we always try to find common ground.

After moving to Dubai, I realized most of the bus drivers at my high school who were either from India or Pakistan spoke little to no English because of their lack of formal education. Most of them had left their families back home and moved to Dubai to provide a better future for them.

However, they never felt they were a part of the society because they felt embarrassed whenever they communicated in English.

My senior year of high school, I took on the initiative to teach bus drivers English so they could adjust to society and converse with us.

What surprised me the most was how committed they were to learning. After a few weeks, I could see the improvement they had made. Their eagerness to communicate and develop bonds made me smile.

This initiative made me realize we should all make an effort to bring communities together.

Throughout my time at Lehigh, I have tried to keep the same value of unity in mind while interacting with people from different cultures. It has made me realize that the best way to overcome obstacles such as division on our campus is by spreading awareness about it.

One of the challenges I have taken on this semester is to tutor Syrian refugee kids who moved to Bethlehem. I try to act as a friend when I’m around them so that they can express their feelings and ultimately settle into American society.

Lehigh, as a university, encourages open dialogue among people with various beliefs to build a better school community.

The university’s resolution to encourage constructive dialogue will be useless unless students put an effort to break down social barriers.

College is the perfect time to become more inclusive. It is the time to interact with people who are vastly different than you, which can help you build habits that will be beneficial in the future — especially if you are working in a big city and doing your share to close the divide.

College students are the future of this country and they have the power to overcome deeply rooted divisions.

Saad Mansoor, ’19, is an assistant lifestyle editor and columnist for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    Historically most nations are divided. As recent as 1946 Pakistan did not exist as a country. It’s birth could be described as a civil war. The united society that exists could be a result of the removal or emigration of those who disagree with the leadership of the country. Kashmir has been an ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan.

    Yes, America was divided at the roots a necessary compromise to gain independence from Great Britain. The problem was known, but the thought of a possible solution was the can kicked down the road. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA64)was a great step towards solving the racism problem along with the effective use of the 13th and 14th Amendments.

    At this time of CRA64 there existed a so called silent majority in the US which was attacked by current college students and others. The silent majority was discredited but unfortunately some of the good was rejected along with the bad. I would say that America is polarized because of the general selfishness of its citizens. Selfishness and insecurity seem to be major causes racism. There is also a lack of respect. No matter how stupid I think someones attitudes are I still need to respect the person and seriously consider his/her viewpoint.

    I dislike the word diversity and other code words because they hide the truth and trivialize real differences. We are all unique and should be respected for having value. Getting to know each other should be a mutually beneficial learning experience.

    If I meet another Lehigh Alumni, I don’t care if they are Greek, non-Greek or athletes. Here in Atlanta I consider any Patriot League Alumni a friend. Have compassion for those who are in need, such as Lafayette sports fans.

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