People dislike and avoid what makes them uncomfortable.
Lehigh’s student population is 64 percent white, nine percent Latinx and eight percent Asian. Only four percent of the student body identifies as black.
With the majority of Lehigh’s student population identifying as white, there is a severe lack of conversation threaded throughout the entire community about the unavoidable reality on campus — racial inequality.
Confronting racial inequality is uncomfortable for those who aren’t affected, because they never have to think twice about it.
A white student at Lehigh can go their entire four years without feeling belittled or attacked simply because of the color of their skin. The historical burden of racism is not ingrained in their DNA.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a student of color at Lehigh has past and present incidents constantly looming over their heads, like the egging and vandalism of the Umoja House in 2013 and yet another act of racist vandalism that occurred two weeks ago. These events fuel society’s embedded racism.
It is so easy to turn a blind eye to racial inequality if it doesn’t stare you in the face.
Forcing yourself to acknowledge pain, suffering and disparity — especially when you simply cannot understand it, have never had to and never will — is uncomfortable.
On Lehigh’s campus, it seems as though the racial burden is only recognized by people who are directly affected by inequality, or those who are inherently interested in it.
But this burden needs to be shared if we want Lehigh to be a community of strength, equality and comfort for all its students and staff.
“If it does not apply to me, it’s not my problem.”
This statement itself is a problem, and seems to often reflect the overall attitude of the student body.
Students might not even realize their own apathy, but it is made obvious by the lack of outrage to injustices — such as when a person of color’s room is defaced with racist language. This narrow-minded and unconcerned attitude must change.
It seems this ambivalence stems from the social inequality that is structurally embedded in the Lehigh culture.
People are wrapped up in their own groups — building isolated silos that further perpetuate deliberate ignorance when it comes to the racial divide and inequality.
At Lehigh, the institution of Greek life perpetuates racial division. There is a clear disconnect between students involved in Greek life and students who are not.
It is human nature to be attracted to people who share your interests, backgrounds and beliefs — people you can easily relate to.
There are not many people of color in Greek life, so other people of color may be less likely to be interested in rushing.
The way Greek life operates at Lehigh segregates its members from the rest of the student body. Greek students live in their chapter houses on the Hill — an area of campus that is physically separated from the rest of the student housing. Students involved in Greek life will live, sleep, eat and spend most of their free time at their chapter houses.
Because they spend so much time together, members of Greek organizations are less inclined to be interested in the experiences of people who are not like them.
Generally, students go Greek for the social scene — one of the main forces driving student decisions.
Committing to a Greek organization pressures students to prioritize barbecues, pre-games and parties over a walkout, talk or event that challenges the status quo.
How do we change these priorities? Is it even possible to change them?
Sparking a change in a culture that is entrenched in Lehigh’s core starts with a bold group, but successfully establishing an inclusive community requires the involvement all of its members.
Lehigh’s admissions team is making strides to widen campus diversity — an admirable and effective long-term goal if we can convince students and faculty of color to come to Lehigh.
But ultimately, the students define Lehigh’s identity. To make a change, students need to care. Students need to step up and consider every member of the community — not just those in their personal bubble.
Until we all do this, we will be stuck in this stagnant, unequal culture.