Identity : How Race Affects Daily Life

Wesley Tomlin, Reporter

One of the factors that Harding prides itself on is that it is an accepting school. The school is built on the bases of equal educational opportunity for all, but does this stance of equality carry over to the students?

Race is a major issue on the national scale. People like to believe that race does not make a difference anymore in our modern “progressive” world, but the reality is that it still affects daily life and how we view the world. For this reason I decide to conduct a social study on what role race places in Harding students’ lives.

To start, two students (one male and one female) were selected from each race (*Note: Due to the lack of number of students from the specific races, groups were divided into four general categories: Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian). The selected students were then asked general questions about race and how it affected their lives.

The answers given varied with several students referring me to the Ethnically Diverse Service Club. Like their name implies, the club is a racially-diverse group of students who volunteer to help their local community. After hearing about the articles, they all insisted that I interview them, to which I complied.

With the interviews complete a trend started to emerge. When asked on their opinion if Harding segregated itself or not, everyone answered yes, but mentioned a small group of African American students who always group themselves together.

After hearing about this group in almost every interview, I had no other choice but to investigate why this group segregates themselves.  I randomly picked one member of the group and asked them the same questions as the others, but added a question about why they associate with the people they do. The reason he gave was that it just happened to be a coincidence that they were all black. They all just had similar characteristics and interests, besides just being African American. He did not, though, that the fact they were all of the same race did make it more “comfortable” for them.

This was a similar answer to what the others said. They all stated that they look for people with similar interests, of the same social class, and the same gender, but if a person is of the same race as they are it makes them feel more “comfortable” around that person.

“They will just understand some things that people of different races, culture, would not understand,” said an African American student.

There were other correlations among those interviewed, such as:

  • No African American students identified themselves by their race or knew their heritage.
  • All the Hispanic students identified themselves by their race and a characteristic, and knew their heritage.
  • The majority of the Caucasian students did not identify themselves by race or a characteristic and did not know their heritage
  • The majority of all students interviewed considered their friend group ethnically diverse.

When students were asked what a member of their race meant to them the responses given could be sorted into three groups: race was just a skin color, race is a cultural identity, and that because of one’ s race one must work harder. The majority of the African American and Caucasian students fell into the first group.

“Race is just a skin level thing, there isn’t a certain way a person is suppose to act based on the color of their skin,” said an African American student.

The majority of Asians fell into the second group.

“[Being Asian means] to be embraced in the culture and be involved in the community,” said an Asian student.

The majority of Hispanic students fell into the last group.

A Hispanic student said, “[It means] where my family comes from and our pride of who we are. We are stereotyped, but we still work very hard.”

None of the students have experienced racism at Harding, though they reported experiencing it outside of school.

Overall Harding, in the eyes of its students, has proved itself to be an accepting school. The only concern was how different races are viewed.

One Caucasian student proved a possible answer for this division during her interview. “Being white my culture is the lack of a culture. Some of us try to create one by looking to our heritage, while others just make one of their own. That is one benefit some other races have, they have a culture that they can identify with or create their own.”