December 2018

Reverse racism is not real

Why white people cannot experience racism

As we all know, in 1776 the country that we now inhabit was founded by a very large group of white men. They all signed their names to a fancy sheet of paper, writing into existence the authority of the white man in this nation. All of those powerful leaders built this government to benefit their needs and dreams, their exact wishes and specifications for this country. Unfortunately, those dreams came at the great and unjust expense of others.

Time and again, throughout our academic careers, we have visited the topic of racism and discrimination in America stemming from the enslavement of African Americans during our country’s inception. The beginning of white prosperity in America was just the beginning of the degradation and dehumanization of African Americans . The very foundation of our country was the idea that white people (mostly men) were humans, deserving of prosperity and freedom, that black people, as ‘non-humans’, did not. The systems that have been around since the beginning of our country did not benefit black people because they were not considered human. They were property, used for the success and prosperity of white men.

I believe that white people may have experienced hatefulness. But they did not experience racism.

    Taking all of that into account, I would like to talk about the definition of racism. The complex idea of racism cannot be boiled down into a simple sentence found in the dictionary. It is a culmination of centuries of white supremacy in our country. Racism is the systemic oppression of non-white people. It is the mistreatment of people, based on their skin color, through the use of systems and institutions. Racism has been built into the fabric of our country, woven into the laws and the minds of the people who inhabit it. Not all white people view people of color as lesser than themselves; however, it would be ignorant to ignore the large amount of people who still do believe and live out the idea of white supremacy.

And now, to my main point. Racism against white people does not exist. I believe that people may have had their feelings hurt by someone of a race different than their own. I believe that white people may have experienced hatefulness. But they did not experience racism. White people have not been systematically oppressed for centuries. They have not had to experience institutionalized oppression. White people have not been complexly excluded from political processes, human rights, and basic decency from their fellow humans. It is completely disrespectful that a person who has not had to experience the plight and hardships of the African American community would be so comfortable as to use a word with such weight.

    Simply because of the white color of one’s skin, white people are favored in this country above all others. White people do not have to worry about being pulled over because of the color of their skin. White people do not have to worry about being innocently shot and killed based on the color of their skin. White people do not have to worry about fleeing their home country and being denied asylum based on the color of their skin. White people are not consistently subject to injustice based on the color of their skin. White people in modern times may not have done anything personally to to warrant that privilege, but it is a simple fact of living in the United States of America. The sooner white people can recognize that privilege and their complicitness in the racist foundations of our country, the sooner we can begin rectifying the ugly and insidious injustices done to black people for centuries. And if white people can’t put aside their own fragility and recognize their privilege, then white people are the problem.

Too much diversity

Diversity is encouraging reverse racism and sexism in America

Embracing true diversity is important, because this is how we make room for many different perspectives and approaches. This happens best in dialogue about how to improve as members of the human race. Diversity does not just mean race or gender. Diversity refers to pretty much anything that can be different about people, including their gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political beliefs, etc.

However, American culture seems to be having difficulty embracing true diversity. True diversity is empowering and encouraging people who need it, but our recent culture seems to instead be pushing to disempower people who haven’t been as discriminated against as others.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that reverse-sexism and reverse-racism are being used in the name of diversity. These terms, for those confused by them, were coined in response to the belief that it is impossible to be sexist against men and racist against white people.

In the spirit of fairness, the belief that racism and sexism cannot happen to a white and male individuals is not openly embraced by the public. However, there are many ways that it is unconsciously encouraged, especially in the college environment.

In conversations about diversity, it is very common for the term “old white men” to be used in a derogatory way. White men are bad, while anything besides white men are good. And, as you can imagine, I often feel attacked as a white man. There are many stereotypes about white people and men that are spread around without question that don’t reflect me at all, but I have to swallow it because nobody believes it is possible to be racist or sexist against white men.

Americans are embracing false diversity by intentionally granting advantages to people with different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds.

Americans are embracing false diversity by intentionally granting advantages to people with different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds. This is revealed in things like job interviews and scholarships.

America is trying to counteract the legitimate problems of inequality and, in the process, often overcompensating, This results in unqualified people sometimes being hired, all because that organization needs their token diverse person.

Scholarships are given out unequally to try and pay for past sins, but in reality such a practice is just creating more inequality now. There are scholarships given to specific races, largely excluding whites. Scholarships should either be given out based on merit or they should be given out equally.

I did not get any scholarships to come to FPU beyond the normal merit based scholarships that everyone gets, and I firmly believe that it is largely because I am a white male. The stereotype is that, because I am a white male, everything is handed to me and I have no problems with money. The truth of the matter is that I struggle to pay for college just like people who are different from me, but because of how my race and gender are seen by modern culture, I get fewer scholarships.

To be clear, I am managing. I am working 3 jobs to make ends meet. This article is not so that people will feel bad for me, because I am making it work. But not everyone that is stereotyped as a white male can do the same, and some need more support than is currently being offered.

This discrimination against white people was pretty evident at FPU when we had a visit from WASC, who sent out an email to all of the ethnic (meaning non-white) students of the school to invite them to a forum so that they could hear particularly from students of color.

First, as a white person, I can honestly say that that is very frustrating. If they sent out the same email, but excluding any other color or ethnicity, it would be called racist and discriminatory. It is only because the students being discriminated against are white that nobody is speaking up about it.

Second, the fact that not even one person showed up to the meeting is at least partial evidence of how tired ethnic students are of being the representative of their particular races or ethnicities.

These two points emphasize the result of this over-focus on diversity: ethnic students are tired of being expected to be a representative, and white students are tired of the reverse-racism that is being displayed.

Unfortunately, most current diversity conversation is limited to the topics of race and gender, which limits the potential benefits of embracing true diversity. What is the point of having a truly diverse population if that same population cannot share and converse about their own beliefs? Diversity of thought is just as important, if not more, than diversity of population. It is our thoughts, beliefs, talents, etc. that make us unique, and to me they are much more important than race or gender.

Discrimination of any kind is wrong, whether it is based off of race, gender, sexual orientation, belief or anything else. I, as a white male, hate discrimination and try to fight against it. At the same time, I want it to be acknowledged that white people and men get discriminated against too. Everyone is on the receiving end of discrimination at some time or another, and we need to fight against all types of discrimination.  

True diversity means creating an equal playing field for ALL parties involved, whether they are part of the majority or not, and I believe that this is the diversity we should embrace. FPU needs to do a better job of supporting people based off of their own merit and need, rather than trying to be unequally “diverse” in order to atone for previous mistakes.

Respecting diversities you may not know about

A voice from the adopted population


One hidden kind of diversity takes on no physical form: adoption. With only around 2.5% of the world’s population having been adopted, we are in the minority.

This has become very apparent to me because I come from an adoptive family. My youngest sister and I were both adopted. We have often faced ignorant curiosity and have on multiple occasions encountered questions that are either unanswerable or simply nobody’s business. People at FPU, as far as I have noticed, are generally good at respecting diversity; however, there is an ignorance when it comes to understanding the adopted population. People don’t have the knowledge they need for respectful conversation.

Jesse Butterworth, the father of an adopted child, is known for his rule of thumb. He discusses in a youtube video, claiming that “if you wouldn’t say it about a boob job…”, don’t say it about adoption. This video explains that, generally, people do not mean to say insensitive or uneducated things to those who have gone through the adoption process, but rather they lack the insight that would help them ask the right questions.

Let’s talk about what you shouldn’t say to an adopted person.

Please do not speak of adopted people or children like we are acquirable objects.

Please do not speak of adopted people or children like we are acquirable objects. Don’t ask the parents “Where did you get them from?” or, my personal favorite, “Did you get to pick them out yourself?” Please don’t feel sorry or empathize for the children who have been adopted. Adoption is not a bad thing, so don’t make it seem like it is. Please know when to stop talking. And most of all, please don’t treat our parents like saints.

This is easily the most frustrating thing that my mom hears on a daily basis. When people find out that she and my dad have adopted, they give her special treatment. It is uncomfortable for her because my parents simply chose to build their family through adoption. She believes that it is no heroic deed to love my sister and I, and finds it insulting when people act like it is. She thinks that it makes it sound like it is some saintly act to be parents to her children and to love them as people.

As students attending a very diverse university, it is important for us to be respectful of that diversity and approach such things with sensitivity and grace. The goal is for all students to feel comfortable on campus, which should be a place of growth instead of a place where they have to answer uncomfortable or insensitive questions. That being said, it takes effort to truly respect diversity in lieu of ignorance.

There are three types of diversity: demographic, experiential and cognitive. Demographic diversity has to do with a person’s origin, such as their gender, race and sexual orientation. Experiential diversity includes a person’s hobbies, affinities or abilities, and cognitive diversity is how we approach problems and think. These types of diversity are not separate from each other, but rather form a cohesive trilogy of components that make each and every person unique, enhancing societal diversity.

In order to respect diversity in our context at FPU, it is important to take these three types into account. Keeping these in mind will help alleviate ignorance on, and off, the FPU campus. The adopted population embodies not one, but all three kinds of diversity. Being adopted is a demographic diversity, in that it determines where we are in relation to where we have been; even our affinities are partly shaped by our experience as those who have been adopted. How we approach problems and even our way of thinking is tied to the fact that we were adopted. They are all interconnected, and come full circle to make the adopted population a little more complex than your average demographic.

It is complicated, I know, and that is why approaching this topic should always be done with sensitivity; curiosity should never take priority over knowing what your questions and remarks imply or neglect. So, when you find out that someone you know is adopted and curiosity emerges, make sure to carefully think about what your question could imply to that person. If your questions or comments make that person out to be strange or of lesser value than they are, you should probably leave it behind.

“The Hate U Give” does not sugar coat police brutality

Movie sparks conversation about the realities of being an African-American in current society

Focused on an African American teen as she struggles with her identity, crosses cultural boundaries and faces the loss of a friend to a police officer, “The Hate U Give” shows the realities of systematic racism. In a time where diversity is a hot-button topic, “The Hate U Give” portrays a riveting yet heartbreaking representation of the realities many African Americans face in current society.

This isn’t a relaxing movie by any means; certain scenes may trigger intense emotion or anxiety. These emotions, however, are important. The topics of police brutality and discrimination are never what anyone wants to hear about, let alone to visually observe in a movie. But this film serves as a harsh reminder of what so many African Americans face. Although it is fairly graphic in some scenes, especially when the police brutality is exemplified, I believe that this was a purposeful move by the directors. The topic of police brutality has become so overlooked and generalized that those of us who have never experienced it have no idea what it actually looks like.

As for the cast, Amandla Stenburg (Starr Carter) could not have been more perfectly cast for her role. Known most popularly for her previous roles in The Hunger Games (Rue) and Everything Everything (Maddy), Stenburg is now gaining critical acclaim for her part in this film. She played Starr effortlessly, and although she has less experience than most big-screen actors she showed no on-screen awkwardness and seemed to really connect with the character.

KG Opa (Chris) and Sabrina Carpenter (Hailey) also played well as the characters who are somewhat unaware of their white privilege. However, Carpenter’s portrayal of Hailey seemed awkward, forced and overall like she was trying too hard to portray the “privileged white girl” stereotype. Since her role is (somewhat) significant in exemplifying unintentional racism and privilege, her lack of on-screen comfort made key scenes in the film feel cringe-worthy and disconnected.

Russell Hornsby (Maverick) and Regina Hall (Lisa) could not have been a more perfect selection to fill the roles of Starr’s parents. They showed amazing on-screen chemistry, serving as two characters who are able to lighten the mood while also addressing the larger, more difficult topics (like Starr struggling to find her voice as a witness).

“The Hate U Give” is one of the few movies of its kind where police brutality and the oppression of African Americans in current society is portrayed.

“The Hate U Give” is one of the few movies of its kind where police brutality and the oppression of African Americans in current society is portrayed. What this film delivers is something many people try to ignore, instead choosing to believe that certain oppressions are no longer relevant. It serves as a gruesome reminder, however, that these issues are ever-prevalent in our society.

FPU symphonic band invited to music conference in Seattle

The band premieres piece at the Western International Band Clinic

The FPU Concert Band performed at their Send-off concert in the middle of November, before they officially departed to Seattle for the Western International Band Clinic. Our symphonic band was among just four bands invited to perform, and was the only one from California.

The conference takes place throughout the Western seaboards of Canada and the U.S., and is mostly made up of music teachers of many academic levels and college students who are involved in music.

“It’s been something that we have been working towards for the last five years since we started this band program,” Erik Leung, Band Director, said.

When the band program first started less than 30 students were involved, a few of which were first-time players barely learning their instruments. The program didn’t even have its own designated rehearsal space on campus.

“A lot of it in the beginning was just teaching people how to play,” Leung said.

Over the course of five years, the program underwent intense rehearsal and practice, making it to music festivals in Chicago and achieving other worthy accomplishments along the way.

“There was no band program before me,” Dakota Botton said. “If you would’ve asked us when this band first started if we’d be able to be here, we would have laughed in your face.”

For newer students, the progression made over the past few years has been impressive. “When I heard that they had a band I was surprised, because this is such a small school… It is amazing how much it has grown,” Jasmine Mozqueda said.

Everyone involved was grateful to be given the opportunity to attend the Seattle conference, and they hope that it will both put FPU on the map and give the students a route to more opportunities in the field of music.

“In music, it’s kind of about who you know that gets you a job. Being able to put stuff like this on my resume, I know I get a boost,” Rachel Garbutt said.

In terms of their set, a junior high piece was included for junior high level audiences. “Rhapsody in Blue” was also performed featuring Walter Saul on the piano. The band was also able to premiere “Ash” by Jennifer Jolley, which has never been played before.

“It has really been a journey to be the first interpretation of this music,” Leung said.

“Ash” was inspired by Fresno, and its reputation as the ash grove. When Jolley was a young girl growing up in southern California, she saw a forest fire approaching her house. In the piece, she recollects the sight of ash falling from the sky, claiming she wanted to musically capture that magical, yet frightening, memory.

While the Western International Band Clinic has proven to be a big gig for the symphonic band, they still have kept their eyes on what’s next; they have hinted at a possible “concert on the Green” next semester, which would feature performances of popular film scores and maybe even tracks from video games.

“We are such a great team,” Leung said. “We’ve always had really great students throughout the years, who have believed in what we’re doing. Through sheer force of will from all of us, we have been able to make things happen.” The conference invitation hasn’t just provided opportunity, but it has boosted their drive.

***Correction Note: In the print version of this article “Rhapsody in Blue” was incorrectly referred to as a junior high piece during the copy editing process.

Defining diversity at Fresno Pacific

FPU moves to prioritize diversity amid competing ways of understanding the term

Amid new diversity initiatives at Fresno Pacific, The Syrinx has investigated the steps being taken to address diversity issues and how the various constituents of the university understand diversity. FPU’s efforts in this area were among many examined earlier this semester by a team of accreditors, during their visit to campus. In their 2015 action letter to the university, WASC (the accreditation agency that evaluates FPU) identified “the need for a shared vision for diversity with more campus-wide, systematic training on multiculturalism, diversity issues, and intercultural competence.” The letter further instructed FPU "to begin aggressive work on developing a unified vision for diversity, including a clearer definition of the role of the University Diversity Committee.” 
Image courtesy George A. Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin, Missouri. Via Creative Commons Flckr

Diversity is one of the pillars of Fresno Pacific’s current plan. According to the plan, students, employees and board alike will be “characterized by racial, ethnic, socio-economic background, age, sex, abilities, and Christian faith diversity, and these persons will feel they belong and have access to full and equitable participation in university life”. However, there are many views on the meaning of diversity and how diversity initiatives should be implemented around the school.

Students’ understanding of diversity ranges from the disregard of demographic diversity to highlighting the need for spaces to be shaped by people of different backgrounds.

The Office of Spiritual Formation (OSF) added diversity to its title after being identified as the place where diversity work happens, and now shapes the university’s official ministry and diversity work. The University Diversity Committee (UDC), which contains representatives from various faculty and staff members in order to facilitate diversity communication, crafted a diversity rationale statement in 2015, stating there are “three particular bases for diversity at FPU: the Bible as our authoritative guide for life, the FPU Idea and core values, and current research regarding diversity in higher education”.

Different Definitions of Diversity

In a survey taken by students of two different general education courses and one focus series course, participants anonymously responded with their definitions of diversity, as well as their perception of its different aspects at work in FPU. When defining diversity, responses ranged from “assimilation of all nationalities and cultures in[to] a given environment” to  “an individual decision to move out of your comfort zone … in order to embrace others around you” to “having a range of [people of] different races, cultures, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status, and providing a space that is welcoming to all of those things”. Other definitions included “not using differences as a factor” and prioritizing “diversity of thought” over “superficial diversity, such as skin color, religious beliefs and gender”.

As an institution, Fresno Pacific seeks to approach diversity work through a biblical lens and has committed itself to “kingdom diversity”, a framework that is unique to FPU. Defined by Angulus Wilson, campus pastor and chief diversity officer (CDO), said kingdom diversity is the “biblical shalom with God and biblical shalom with man”.

“We [should] submit ourselves to serve one another as a way towards peace,” Wilson said,  “At the cross everybody is brought together through what God is doing on the earth, [which is] reconciling men back to himself. It came out of the FPU idea, out of who we are as a university and what we do.”

Andrew Shinn, who teaches in the School of Business and serves on the UDC’s executive group, echoed this sentiment, saying that “we’re working to bring the diverse kingdom of God on Earth”.

According to Wilson, secular diversity “separates, segregates, and subjugates”

In comparison, according to Wilson, secular diversity “separates, segregates, and subjugates”. “It comes from the evil one who likes to keep us divided,” Wilson said. He further explained that secular diversity, by nature, “separates people into groups based on a racial construct, segregates based on a system of class and preference, and subjugates people to adhere to a system of rules created by a dominant group”.

“The whole thing is wrong and birthed from the fall of man,” Wilson said, “In the kingdom all are one in Christ and there’s one identity and it’s the identity of God.”

Diversity and Spiritual Formation Tied Together

Fresno Pacific is one of the only schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) to merge their diversity office and their spiritual formation offices together. Schools such as Azusa Pacific and Biola University, according to their websites, separate their spiritual life-centered office from their diversity-focused office. Wilson stated that the long-term plan is to keep the two offices combined and that they do not want different areas of the university to be distinctly separate. “[It should be] when we do academic work, we’re doing the work of spiritual formation, we’re engaging in diversity,” Wilson said.

Dr. Quentin Kinnison, associate professor and chairperson of the Biblical & Religious Studies division, thinks that having a combined diversity office is a good first step, but foresees potential limitations with this set up.

“I think that there are challenges at FPU in particular because of the way those things (diversity and spirituality formation) have been conflated that tend to isolate diversity in a particular office, and that doesn’t necessarily get disseminated across the campus. It creates a different kind of difficulty that makes it harder for OSFD to accomplish its spiritual formation goals and diversity goals, and that’s not because you don’t have good people trying to do good work,” Kinnison said. “This may be a good initial step. We haven’t had an office of diversity here at FPU, [but] I personally don’t think this is the long term place for it to land.”

Instead, Kinnison envisions two separate offices that work collaboratively as a way of “doing justice to the diversity issues on this campus”.

According to Wilson, the offices combined because accreditation officials and “experts” pointed out that what was then-OSF demonstrated “what diversity looks like”. Wilson said initially the OSF ministered to students on the fringes, who were often not of the majority culture, and because of this they naturally drifted to the office. Students dealing with past traumatic events, such as those leaving prison or veterans, found a home in the office. “We’ve always been doing this [diversity] work,” Wilson said.

President Jones, in the 2018 Spiritual Formation and Kingdom Diversity Report, said “We intentionally integrated diversity with the Office of Spiritual Formation and Diversity because the framework for nurturing one area impacts the maturing of the other. Our commission to love one another reaches beyond emotional affinity and compels us to engage others beyond our comfort levels.”

Diversity Work at an Institutional Level

FPU’s official interpretation of diversity work can be seen in the 2018 Spiritual Formation and Kingdom Diversity Report. This report demonstrates the initiatives from the Office of Spiritual Formation and Diversity (OSFD) that are meant to “engage the cultures and serve the cities”; it cited international services, college hours and chapel services that provided “multicultural ministry” and various summer Latinx programs.   

FPU is stuck in “hospitality mode” rather than focusing on the long-term goal of  “mutual flourishing”

Kinnison thinks that FPU is stuck in “hospitality mode” instead of focusing on the long-term goal of “mutual flourishing”, where people from diverse backgrounds can “shape the environment” rather than be the “perpetual guest”. Kinnison pointed out the lack of diversity in faculty and senior administration; there are no Hispanics or Latinos in a President’s Cabinet serving a university with more than 40% Hispanic or Latino students. To that point, according to Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS), a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, Fresno Pacific’s faculty as of November 2017 is 76% white and 6% Hispanic or Latino.

Brian Davis, an associate pastor of spiritual formation, said that the faculty needs to reflect more of the student population’s diverse makeup. Wilson also stated that progress at the administrative level is happening, referencing his position as the CDO, who reports directly to the president.

“Diversity becomes everybody’s work,” Wilson said, “It’s [about] key people in key positions hiring individuals to come in and work and embody the ethos of the campus.”

Miguel Montoya, a sophomore Criminal Justice major, was critical of the lack of provided spaces for some parts of the diverse student population. “We don’t have a platform for LGBTQ students, or students who stuggle with alcholism because of depression or trauma. It’s an institutional problem. FPU doesn’t even have to ‘agree’ with them, but they can still give them a voice,” he said.

Michaela Gregory and Chad Brennan, co-facilitators of diversity trainings and workshops through ReNew Partnership, think change needs to be recognized by those in power for any systemic transformation to occur, and this recognition can come through cross-cultural relationships.

“Individuals are operating within the system, so it’s going to be individuals that understand that the system is broken, but if it doesn’t seem broken to you it’s because you don’t know anybody that the system is affecting or hurting and you’re gonna continue on feeling like everything is fine,” Gregory said.

Why Diversity Matters

Kinnison thinks diversity can make the environment itself stronger, mentioning evidence observed in biospheres.

“Each person’s own distinct, unique difference is a contribution to the larger. For instance, we know that, in biological environments, that diversity makes an environment stronger because it allows it to adapt more quickly to changes around it, whereas those environments that are less diverse and less difference adapt poorly,” Kinnison said.

“I want students learning alongside students who are not like them . . .”

Shinn highlighted that diversity enriches the experience of attending a university. “I want students learning alongside students who are not like them. The whole enterprise of going to university is the idea of opening your mind and expanding it, and that happens when you’re doing that alongside people with vastly different viewpoints,” he said. He also emphasized diversity as a source of strength because “more solutions are available when more voices are at the table”.

Moving Forward

Kinnison understands diversity work involves persistence and continual reflection.  “We’ve inherited a beautiful heritage from our founders, with a view towards a diverse horizon, but it comes with a certain framework that requires to be adapted and revisted in order to get to that horizon,” Kinnison said. “I think that’s where part of institutional struggles occur: how much adaptation is too much adaptation, and what gets sacrificed in that process?”