One year ago, racial tensions on campus exploded. The Hoya triggered an avalanche by publishing an inflammatory April Fools’ edition that attempted to satirize the issues surrounding diversity on campus. The articles asserted the need for “good old-fashioned vanilla-chocolate swirl interracial” loving, claimed minorities were racially privileged in college admissions, trivialized sexual assault and offended just about any and every underrepresented group imaginable.

The attempted satire backfired for The Hoya, The issue and the student body’s reaction to it, however, revealed a campus that is fractured, insular, hard of hearing and hard-hearted when it comes to issues such as race, class or gender. That environment produced the April Fools’ edition, and it remains relevant to campus life today.

Consider that, in the year since last April, some students have asserted that those who find fault with The Hoya or The Georgetown Heckler simply don’t understand satire – a claim that is entirely inaccurate and inappropriate. Georgetown students of every background are intelligent enough to understand satire, and have a right to be offended without having their intelligence questioned. That argument reinforced what protesters already knew: Georgetown is not the inclusive community many imagine it to be.

Historically, many minority students have felt that their voices were excluded or misrepresented in The Hoya. Minority students who had written for The Hoya felt they were objectified and treated as tokens. When the April Fools’ issue was released, many were frustrated by the lack of solidarity among their friends and peers who were not offended. In response to the issue, the President’s Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness was formally created.

Georgetown is disconnected, and we need more than the promise of ambivalent, poorly defined dialogue. It takes initiative from individuals and communities. It takes conversation and context, in the classroom as well as in the residence hall.

There is fault on all sides, but we need to examine who is positively contributing and who is simply paying lip service. A few student organizations have created new positions and allocated funds for diversity programming. The Hoya, for example, created an institutional diversity position and has co-sponsored events focused on minority issues in the past year.

Even though these developments represent a shift toward increasing dialogue and access to resources in some cases, most groups and communities have not thrown their full weight into the dialogue. Simply introducing a few new students to act as diversity representatives is a paltry effort in a discourse that demands our full engagement.

We would be more effective, and more genuine, if we confront our issues directly.

Let’s start by avoiding the politically correct and depoliticized approach we take toward conversations about diversity. Privilege exists in many forms, and its repercussions affect all of us. We can’t begin to discuss how to move forward if we don’t understand how we got here. We know that neither our generation nor our parents’ generation committed the genocide of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, nor did we personally force Africans onto slave ships. But we have to first recognize that the legacies of those terrible institutions and histories manifested themselves in Jim Crow laws and Native American reservations and persisted as the segregation of the civil rights era, despite dissident voices.

Today, those legacies preserve the advantage of the privileged and retain their stranglehold on the opportunities of segregated and deprived African-American, Latino and other minority communities across the country. World history informs the present American social condition, which undoubtedly contributes directly to who is able to attend a university like Georgetown, and how discourse is organized on campus.

So let’s be honest – and a little bold – as we endeavor to break the barriers that divide us. If Georgetown is serious about developing an inclusive campus and a critical curriculum, it can’t continue without full African-American, U.S. Latino and Asian-American Studies programs. Moreover, all students must be involved in a diversity discourse, and should fulfill a distinct and rigorous diversity requirement.

Without the contribution and representation of minority scholars, narratives and histories in our education, we will continue to fail in our mission as Georgetown University. We expect President John J. DeGioia and Provost James O’Donnell to lead us by hiring the best minority faculty immediately.

The President’s Diversity Initiative marks an opportunity for Georgetown to do better, and many have committed to realizing that potential. This time next year, let’s be able to say that we have each taken a chance, stepped out of our comfort zone and committed to an inclusive curriculum and community.

Jheanelle Brown is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and current president of Georgetown University’s Chapter of the NAACP. Brian Kesten is a senior in the College and co-founder of the Student Commission for Unity. This is the first in a series of viewpoints about diversity at Georgetown.

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