Many people were concerned by the recent promotional advertisement for a Greek party fundraiser for Boys and Girls Club of America at SMU which featured a picture of an African American rap star with a large gold chain protruding from his teeth and money and naked women reflected in his sunglasses. The description of the picture by itself is highly offensive, but not because it portrays an African American. Rather, it is offensive because it promotes a party held on a college campus that is religious in nature and has a diverse cultural population. The picture does not represent the image that parents, teachers, and administrators want this college campus to represent. That the image is also racially offensive is a secondary issue, but a good example of cultural illiteracy in schools and businesses today.
What is an issue and concern is that young people who represent America’s best and brightest (and only a small portion of students) find “thug” representation exciting and cool. A pop star’s music is stimulating and promotes a party atmosphere, but is this the kind of atmosphere our children enjoy? It is frightening to think their minds are so jaded that the idea never occurred to them that the image is offensive, on any level.
I’m sure that after being reprimanded and inciting negative national attention, the students in question are remorseful and apologetic. Their goal apparently wasn’t to offend anyone, but to promote interest in a fundraiser with the best of intentions. Sadly, the children’s club won’t benefit from those good intentions.
Instead of blasting the event organizers for their lack of sensitivity—which clearly is not the case, given the nature of the reason behind the party—alternative suggestions would be a better solution to an already volatile situation. All organizations could benefit from cultural sensitivity training. Isn’t this type of training a hot issue in corporations all across America? It should be.
America is full of immigrants from countries all over the world. Many people pouring into the country are well-educated, and can speak and write English fairly well. Their skills allow them to procure jobs in corporate business and other venues based on experience. It is imperative that cultural training be incorporated in all businesses, to improve communication and inter-relationships among employees.
College campuses are no different. Students from all over the world come to America for their education, particularly to schools with high educational value. SMU is highly ranked nationally and has a global interest. Corporations seek students from the SMU campus as interns and future employees. What better place to begin cultural immersion and education about the many cultures represented in our country today than in our schools?
The gross negligence of sensitivity by the Greek students can be used as an example to benefit all students. Cultural training programs are an essential part of education that should not be ignored. Students need to be prepared to work in careers alongside many diverse cultures, and appropriate communication is the key to their success.
Present and future teachers need immediate training on culture, and in some cases, English as a second language, to equip our young children for future careers and life among a diverse and blended country. Without such training, more situations will occur that negatively setback any positive relationships and achievements already accomplished. Such breaks in cultural relationships have already occurred here at SMU.
Let the SMU community set the standard for good cultural relationships and education programs. The lives of our students, teachers, faculty, and community can greatly benefit from a partnership in cultural studies and information that increases awareness, and our ability to thrive and grow together as a nation.
Diana Miller, B.A., Master of Liberal Studies student at SMU