By Jeremy Roth
Diversity is a term known by many, but understood by few. The staff and students of the College are quite diverse, but not as different as one might think at first glance.
Graduate of the College and current multicultural recruiter for the College Jamal Johnson began his college career with this preconception, but throughout his four years his ideas altered immensely.
On Wednesday, Nov. 20 in the Education Building, Johnson spoke to a diverse audience of College students about minority awareness and losing preconceived ideas about diversity.
“I want to urge you to get out of bed,” Johnson said in the beginning of his talk.
He used this metaphor to make a point: If students decide to stay in bed and get too relaxed, they will never be able to develop fully as a human being.
Johnson was raised in East Orange, N.J., a city predominantly filled with African Americans and Hispanics. When he arrived at the College, a majority white campus, it came as a huge culture shock to him.
“I came here a hoodlum from East Orange,” Johnson said jokingly.
As a result of instilled ideas from his upbringing, Johnson had negative thoughts toward white people when he arrived at the College, and he began his college career feeling uncomfortable surrounded by the majority.
Johnson only spent time with students culturally similar to himself, and he separated himself from those who were not. One of these students was his roommate, a white Jewish student from Wayne, N.J., an area very different from Johnson’s hometown.
This separation finally came to an end when the two found that they had similar tastes in music, and from then on, they spent more time together and discovered many more similarities between them despite being culturally different.
After deciding to bring his original friend circle together with a group of white students in a friendly game of football, Johnson further realized that he was not as much of a minority as he once believed.
As a result, Johnson’s negative preconceived ideas about other cultures no longer existed by the time he graduated. Johnson’s words were inspiring to the many students in the diverse audience.
“Mr. Johnson inspired me to be more accepting to people of other ethnicities and cultures and to ignore prior beliefs that were instilled in me as a child,” freshman biology major Rami Amer said.
Another inspired student, freshman civil engineering major Paul Duarte, said, “After seeing Mr. Johnson’s presentation I was inspired to get out of my comfort zone, rather than do what most do, which is get to know only people who seem similar to them.”
Johnson urged the students at the College to explore the diversity on campus rather than just acknowledge it.
“I want the students to learn that there is a larger world than the world they know,” he said.