The cost of inclusion can be a dignity for some students.
The tradition is strong at Northern State University, and it never seems more true than during reunion season.
When you are a student, this is when you start to feel time converging. You are part of the history of your institution and the word inclusion can take on a new meaning for you. This homecoming, I asked myself, “What does it mean to be included when you are a minority student and your homecoming theme is humiliating for another minority group?” “
Inclusion has always come at an invisible cost to minority students, and all the goodwill in the world will not save the pound of flesh they have to pay.
Typically, you are asked to write demeaning essays about your community’s weaknesses, poverty and social ills, and how it has failed to meet your needs. How did life on the reserve hurt you? Was it really serious? Have you lived in a double-large? Did your grandparents raise you? Did you drink powdered milk? How are you going to redeem your people with your brilliant, brilliant degree from a historically exclusive institution? Ultimately, you beg for money from salivating white saviors so that you can be included and they can feel like you’ve paid some sort of reparation for building their mansions on broken treaties.
Dignity is the cost of your inclusion.
If you are a student-athlete, you may be benefiting from a donor funded scholarship. You get paid to entertain, to risk your long-term health, to have no opinion, and to keep your politics out of the public eye. Be still and serve happily, so maybe they will let you work in the house rather than in the fields. This is the cost of your inclusion.
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Also, does inclusion exist beyond your acceptance letter? Will your voice be valued with the symbolic character of your presence?
As a student, will you see yourself reflected in the course content? Not if the university is unable to attract a diverse pool of applicants because they willingly ethnically insult each other, have publicly ruined any semblance of values in favor of racist donors, and violated the freedom of speech of students the same year. I’m starting to ask myself, “How much do I even want to be included in this system?” “
Our university perseveres in the great tradition of elevating the whims of the privileged to the detriment of historically marginalized and excluded groups. The voices of wealthy alumni who attended Northern State University when it cost $ 19 per credit hour and the student demographics were milky and consistent carry more weight than first-generation participants whose parents saw each other. refuse this same privilege. This continues a systemic silence of minority voices. Your parents did not have a path to higher education and therefore could not accumulate wealth? Well, I’m sorry, the thoughts of your people are worth a little less. And, anyway, you don’t really care about these issues because you’re too busy trying to dig yourself a trench 243 years deep.
Caring about the quality of our education, wanting to participate in traditions that do not demean other minorities and being culturally valued beyond our symbolic presence should not be a preserved desire for privileged students. We care. There has never been enough genocide, slavery, systemic disadvantage, exclusion and colonization that we don’t care.
We will not assimilate to a tradition made possible by the systemic exclusion of our grandparents. If inclusion means we have to sacrifice the values instilled by our ancestors who paid a price much higher than $ 19 per credit hour, then the cost of inclusion is too high.
Perhaps it is time for Northern to ask, “What price have you had to pay for all those years of excluding minority students?” What values can you learn now? “
If the cost is a racist and harmful tradition, and real action beyond throwing the word “inclusive” on your website is lacking, then you will have a hard time convincing us that it is too high.
Lauren Nikolas of Aberdeen is a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a graduate student at Northern State University.