Caitlin Meyer, columnist
I recently had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. on Samford’s diversity trip. This trip was an amazing opportunity to visit the nation’s capital at a price that a college student could not pass up. What made the trip even more amazing was the fact that we all got tickets to the newly opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Going to the capital, it was obvious we were not in the small Samford bubble anymore. There were people from all over the world, speaking many different languages and practicing various religions, but who still felt a pull to visit and see the national monuments.
Walking through the National Mall, you realize that America is made up of interactions of many people of all origins. These diverse interactions have had an effect on the growth and change that has occurred in our country to get us where we are today. They are also the driving force that keeps us moving forward.
The museums and monuments pay special tribute to all the wars and history that have formed these United States. I was quite surprised, however, that the African American Museum is so new, and that an ethnicity that has helped craft the United States since the very beginning is only now having its story shared on a national level.
I am going to be completely honest. Coming to college, I was excited to meet new people from different backgrounds. I thought college was going to be a place where people could talk and agree to disagree.
I could learn from my new friends about their cultures and heritages. I had a friend go to college, and she met people from Russia, Iran and Mexico. She would tell me about the stories they shared with her about their own countries, and I was excited to have a similar experience.
Although I believe I am here at Samford during this season in my life for a reason, I was shocked when I walked onto campus and the diversity was so minimal.
At home, I go to a church where I am in the minority. My public school gifted me with a diverse friend group. My family tree is both racially and ethnically diverse. I have traveled abroad twice and I believe in only one race: the human race. That said, you can imagine my surprise when I realized Samford was very much a “vanilla” school, lacking the diversity I had grown accustomed to growing up.
The most surprising aspect of this trip was the ignorance of some of my fellow classmates. Comments people make unknowingly frustrated me and left me dumbfounded. I could not understand how so many “educated people” could be so very uneducated about such a hot topic in today’s culture.
Going on this trip was eye-opening as I listened to the comments of my fellow classmates. On the bus, someone was explaining how in the museum, we would start at the bottom and it would be like a slave ship. Another student immediately questioned, “Why would she say slave ship, it’s not like they were brought over here like that?”
After the museum and a few more odd comments, I realized that person had no idea and was never taught correctly in school the true history of African Americans in the United States.
This made me wonder if this is a common trend throughout the South. Are students just not being educated? Are they gaining knowledge from other sources who genuinely do not know the truth, either? Does the education system just assume that slavery and civil rights are sore spots in our history that should be overlooked and fail to teach about them? Is there a gap in knowledge that is causing the tension in America today? Is it too late for this generation to know the truth?
I think the trip to this museum was a great opportunity for people to learn and open up their perspective on the racial tension in America. I still feel like there is no perfect solution, and this is something that will take time to work out.
It’s easy to feel hopeless about this issue, and to feel very small in such a huge movement, but through education, open dialogue and a willing heart that’s ready to listen, maybe we can realize there is a lot of common ground. I applaud you, Samford, for taking this step to educate and to help break down barriers of racial and ethnic diversity.
Meyer is a freshman sports medicine major.