When looking into colleges during the fall of my senior year, BC stood out right from the beginning. While diving through BC’s website noticing things like the impressive core curriculum and CSOM’s #4 ranking, I also noticed a term I had never seen before, “AHANA.” AHANA, an acronym for representing students of African, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent, really puzzled me. Why would a school essentially list their student body’s racial breakdown as “white” and “everyone else”?
After applying and being accepted, I received an invitation for an AHANA Accepted Students Weekend. This left me a little conflicted, as somehow solely based on the fact that I’m Hispanic, I was eligible to attend a different accepted students day than the rest of my peers. By being geared towards minority students, the brochure for the event was also targeted for low-income students. It was likely that I was low-income, apparently, based on my ethnicity, not based on my FAFSA. At the time, however, AHANA was less of a priority than ACT scores and the Common App. I had already gotten so used to receiving the countless invitations from other universities about their own minority-targeted events. So although it bothered me, I had to let it go.
Now coming to the end of my freshman year I am just as confused about AHANA as I was a year ago. Receiving emails and seeing flyers about AHANA events does not make me feel more racially “included.” If anything it makes me feel more excluded. Is it really necessary for minority students to have AHANA-designated events? Although these events are open to everyone, when I asked my white friends if they felt like they could attend these events all of them said no. In effect, AHANA creates an unnecessary campus divide.
Instead of celebrating minorities individually for what makes each unique and worth celebrating, AHANA has the tendency of just lumping everyone together. I’ve often felt like they try to celebrate diversity just based on the fact that members of AHANA are simply not white. I do not see the point of celebrating minorities as a collective unit when each minority within AHANA is distinct. How can we truly appreciate a culture when it’s clumped together with other cultures that do not really have anything in common? The only thing minorities have in common is a history of experiencing racial discrimination. Facing racial discrimination can absolutely bring people across cultural lines together, but that does not change the fact that they are separate cultures with different traditions and characteristics. It’s an ineffective system of celebrating racial diversity on campus.
I’m not saying that AHANA is completely flawed. Their mission of creating racial unity across campus is great; however, it has been poorly executed. The whole AHANA acronym came about to replace the “Office of Minority Programs,” which, granted, is much worse. But this change occurred in 1979 and it is clearly outdated. I’m also not saying that we should get rid of AHANA entirely. Universities need a center for racial diversity.
Although we are well into the twenty-first century, racism is prevalent in our society and can still be found in places close to home. I certainly didn’t expect it walking into my First Year Writing Seminar last semester, only to find one of my peers talking about how he is dressing up as a “Mexican” for Halloween. I also did not expect it while introducing myself to people and being told that I did not “look” Mexican (Being Hispanic is an ethnicity, we don’t look any type of way.) It’s been thirty-six years BC; it’s time to modernize this campus’ approach to racial diversity.